Union helps JBS workers access $600 COVID relief bonuses

UFCW 663 hosted event to help union workers access $600 bonus pay for working during the pandemic.

UFCW assists JBS workers
Joel Racchini (right), a volunteer from the Twin Cities, assists JBS employees Hao Mo (from left), Thanh Chung and Lina Chung complete their applications for COVID-19 relief funds made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for working through the pandemic.
Julie Buntjer / The Globe

WORTHINGTON — More than 100 union workers employed by JBS in Worthington gathered Wednesday evening inside the gymnasium at St. Mary’s School to begin the process of applying for up to $600 each in COVID-19 relief grants.

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The money is offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to individuals who worked at agricultural processing plants throughout the country during the pandemic.

United Food and Commercial Workers union 663, which represents local workers, organized Wednesday’s kick-off event. They partnered with Unidos and the Greater Minnesota Worker Center to provide assistance to workers in completing the application. The program application period runs through March 29.

“Applying takes less than five minutes — that’s if English is your first language,” said Jessica Hayssen, UFCW 663 communications director.

Waiting to apply
Individuals who don't have access to a computer, or need interpreter assistance, attended a UFCW 663-sponsored event Wednesday evening at St. Mary's School in Worthington to receive help in applying for a $600 COVID-19 relief payment offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

UFCW organized volunteers to assist union workers with their applications for more than four hours Wednesday. Union staff will continue to provide assistance to workers at the local UFCW office and at JBS in the coming weeks.


“It’s a much simpler form than the frontline worker pay program,” Hayssen said, adding that workers should expect to get their $600 compensation within two to four weeks of applying.

“This was possible because members of UFCW lobbied in Washington, D.C. to get the money and the assistance for all meatpackers in Minnesota and throughout the country,” she added.

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Last July, UFCW staff also worked with local JBS union members to access a Minnesota-based frontline worker pay program. Due to the number of applicants, each union member received less than what was originally projected, at $487.45 per person.

Rena Wong, president of UFCW 663, said JBS in Worthington has approximately 1,700 union workers, all of whom qualify for the funding.

“It’s an acknowledgement of everything meatpacking workers have done to keep us fed during the pandemic,” Wong said.

UFCW 663 also plans application assistance events in Madelia and Butterfield in the coming days.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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