UFCW 770 Executive Board Member Pedro Albarrán Receives Recognition for 29 Years of Service
At age 26, Pedro Albarrán began working at Farmer John. His first job consisted of stocking hundreds of boxes of ham, bacon, sausages, pork shank and any form of fresh and processed meat, in a huge cooler.
These Farmer John products, including the famous Dodger Dog, have been favorite staples of American families across the nation since the plant started operations in Vernon, California, 90 years ago.
Behind the popular Farmer John brand, over 2,500 employees (1,500 UFCW 770 members) worked diligently to produce the meat that many have enjoyed for nearly a century. Pedro Albarrán was one of these employees. In addition to his duties in the plant, Pedro became a Union leader.
For 29 years, Pedro worked in the meat processing plant and the everyday hustle at each production area became pretty familiar to Pedro.
The 436,000-square-foot hog processing plant itself became a landmark in the industrial city of Vernon and neighboring cities. From the outside, Farmer John walls depicted happy piglets running free in countryside meadows. Only a few really knew what it was like to work the hardest to feed the community and the nation, especially throughout the trying days of the Covid-pandemic.
For the last 20 years Pedro worked in Pork Cut, where the hogs were butchered after leaving the kill floor. The latter area was deemed the dirtiest and most dangerous in the whole plant. Only Blacks and Mexicans would work there in the 80’s.
It really required strength working at Farmer John. The first shift started at 5am, and most of the duties were physically excruciating and mentally taxing. For instance, workers used to cut 30 pork ribs per minute and up to 25 pork shoulders in the same amount of time.
In the midst of the fast paced work, members –mostly Latino and Vietnamese immigrants got used to each other’s presence and treated themselves as family.
Spending so much time in the production lines, seeing each others’ faces, working elbow to elbow, and having lunch together are some of the things that will now be part of history for Pedro. Something that he, one day, will share with his grandchildren.
One of the life lessons that Pedro learned at Farmer John is the power of organized workers. Workers lost some labor protections they had, after the 1985 strike, Pedro recalls. When he started working at the plant in 1994, the employees’ existing contract was unilaterally implemented by the company.
Farmer John employees were under constant pressure to work harder; sometimes, workers were restricted to use restrooms and other times they were denied to use
them altogether. The company also denied workers union representation and Union reps were not allowed inside the plant; workers who were seen organizing their coworkers suffered harassment and retaliation.
It took workers over two decades of organizing efforts to win the first union contracts that actually reflected substantial improvements. After the ‘85 strike until the plant closure in mid February 2023, workers fought hard to improve working conditions, wages and benefits.
And those battles are the ones that Pedro will miss the most now that the plant is closed permanently.
Not to mention the everyday practice of any good organizer: speaking with fellow workers, listening to their concerns, and helping them to empower themselves to have the bosses respect their labor and human rights, including treating them with dignity.
Pedro’s integrity and dedication to his fellow union members, made him the recipient of the 2017 Member of the Year award.
Pedro Albarran’s commitment to his co-workers and his UFCW 770 union as well as his passion for justice, made him a leader in the plant. He was a union shop steward, which also brought him to UFCW 770 Executive Board where he served as a Vice President for nearly 15 years, until Feb.16th 2023. At this last E-Board meeting, several members acknowledged and commended Pedro’s contributions to UFCW 770.
“I encouraged workers to get involved in the union so we could organize ourselves. I feel proud of having been able to represent my co-workers against injustices. I fought back when the supervisors tried to take advantage of my fellow employees. Management’s priority was always to increase production regardless of workers’ needs. We had rights and we fought for them.”
Pedro said that he will miss the Executive Board members and the unity among the diverse decision making body at UFCW 770, especially because all the Vice Presidents share a similar vision of fighting to improve workers’ lives and working conditions. And the same passion for justice for everyone. No matter the race, language or your skin color.
We celebrate you and you will be greatly missed compañero Pedro!