Burmese worker files labor complaint

Michael P. Tremoglie Aug. 23, 2012, 1:27pm

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Burmese immigrant Maung Po has filed federal charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1149 and JBS Swift Company.

He claims that officials for both the union and the company are "taking advantage of more than 600 Burmese immigrant workers with little or no English language fluency" by making no effort to communicate to them their federal labor rights.

The union and company officials at the JBS facility have presented the workers English-language union membership and dues deduction forms. They have been provided these documents despite the fact that many of the workers are not fluent in English, Po claims.

Other workers from the same plant recently filed federal charges that said union and company officials have not informed workers of their rights under Iowa's Right to Work law and federal law to refrain from union membership and dues payments. This prompted the NLRB to investigate the practices union and the company.

Union and company officials subsequently entered into a settlement after the NLRB determined the accusations were warranted.

"Unlike UWFC union bosses and JBS management, a Right to Work law does not discriminate," said Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, which is providing free legal assistance. "UFCW union bosses and JBS officials should notify workers of their rights under Iowa's popular Right to Work law to refrain from union affiliation."

According to the NRTW, the matter is currently being investigated by National Labor Relations Board Region18. The investigators are trying to locate a Burmese translator and interpreter.

Neither the UFCW nor JBS Swift responded to requests for comments about the case.

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