NRLB Actions Against Conagra Settled

Times Labor Writer

Nearly 600 meat-packing workers in states around the country will be eligible to get jobs and split $6.6 million in back pay as a result of a settlement of a employment discrimination case against a Nebraska-based conglomerate.

The settlement announced Thursday stemmed from several cases filed by the National Labor Relations Board against Conagra Inc. of Omaha in December, 1985, on behalf of almost 800 former Armour Food employees who worked in plants from South San Francisco to Charlotte, N.C. The workers lost their jobs when Conagra took over Armour at the end of 1983.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Sep. 05, 1987 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday September 5, 1987 Home Edition Business Part 4 Page 8 Column 3 Financial Desk 2 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
In Friday’s editions, The Times incorrectly reported the amount Conagra Inc. agreed to pay former employees to settle cases brought by the National Labor Relations Board. The settlement provides for payments totaling $6.6 million, including $4.95 million in unreimbursed medical expenses.

The NLRB sought to compel Conagra to offer jobs to the workers and award them back pay and other benefits they would have received had the company hired them.

Conagra has agreed to offer jobs to 409 former Armour workers within the next four months and another 172 when positions become available at 11 Conagra plants around the country, according to settlement documents.


On top of the $6.6 million in back pay, the company also has agreed to reimburse the workers for $4.95 million in medical expenses that would have been covered by a company medical plan had they been hired.

The case stems from Greyhound Corp.'s 1983 sale of the Armour meat-packing plants to Conagra for $166 million. At the time, Conagra said it would retain the Armour work force if “satisfactory” labor contracts were negotiated at each of the plants. These proposals provided for $2.69-an-hour pay cuts and significant cutbacks in medical, pension and vacation benefits.

The workers rejected the offer, the plants were briefly closed in December, 1983, and reopened a few days later. Very few of the former workers were rehired. Workers in three cities asserted to the NLRB that the company had refused to rehire them because they were union members and, after a lengthy investigation, the board filed the cases.

Initially, the national office of the United Food and Commercial Workers did not push the case, saying instead that it would try to organize the new workers. Later, the union shifted course and urged the board to penalize the company.

On Wednesday, William Wynn, the union’s president, sent a letter to former Armour employees hailing the settlement while acknowledging that it was a compromise. Wynn said in the letter that he believes “that the concrete benefits the settlement offers you and your families are worth more today than any speculative gains we might obtain were we to litigate this case for another six or seven years--a conservative estimate of the time it would take to bring this case to a conclusion through the full legal process.”

The settlement documents note that Conagra does not admit any wrongdoing. However, as a part of the settlement, the company must post notices in affected plants stating that it has offered jobs to former Armour employees, will not discriminate against employees because of their union activity and will provide back pay, with interest, to individuals “who may have suffered as a result of our not having earlier employed them.”