A nearly six year boycott of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company by the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) ended on Sept 16 with an historic agreement to give union benefits for “guest migrant workers” from Mexico and Latin American countries. The “collective bargaining agreement”, which extends union benefits to some 8,500 legal “guest migrant workers” (H-2A) from across the border, marks the first such development in the history of the U.S.
“This agreement gives these farm workers in North Carolina the justice they deserve,” said NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar, who traveled to Raleigh, NC, for the signing of the agreement.
The agreement, in essence, offers three major benefits to the migrant “guest” workers. Mt. Olive agreed to now: expand its code of corporate conduct for North Carolina growers and suppliers; increase cucumber prices paid to North Carolina and Ohio suppliers by 2.25 percent annually for the next three years; and provide a 3 percent annual supplement to growers who provide Workers Compensation insurance coverage to their farm workers.
“NCGA initiated discussions with the union because it saw an opportunity to strengthen its H-2A program in North Carolina,” said Mt. Olive spokesperson Lynn Williams.
For the last five years, the NCC and several of its member constituents boycotted Mt. Olive for its harsh treatment of migrant workers. Mt. Olive previously refused to negotiate with the union on the grounds that its suppliers were not employees of the company. The recent agreement marks a breakthrough in improving the rights of migrant workers nationwide.
"The agreement we celebrate today may be viewed by some as a small victory, but it has a big payoff for this good company, its suppliers, and 8,000 guest farm workers whose efforts all contribute to a highly successful business enterprise,” said Dr. Edgar. “Beyond that, this agreement represents the kind of mutual benefit that we hope will become an example for all of American industry, pointing toward a new era where profits are measured not only in share values, but in human values as well; where owners and workers alike participate fully in the wonderful cycle of investment, hard work, and just reward, and where a true, sustainable partnership for profit and progress is created. Then, and only then, will America's noblest ideals - and indeed the ideals of faith - be fully realized."