Pulling with His Union
Hide Puller Joe Mendoza credits the Union for his long employment at Harris Ranch Beef.
Joe Mendoza knows a good deal when he sees one. He has been a Union member during all of the 37 years he has worked at Harris Ranch Beef in Selma.
“The reason I have stayed so long is because we have a Union,” Mendoza explained. “We have benefits that people without a Union can only dream about.”
Mendoza is a native of Mercedes, Texas. His family moved to Selma when he was in his teens. His first job was at a small “mom and pop” grocery store.
“We worked long hours and often had to work weekends and holidays,” Mendoza said. “We had no benefits at all and never received overtime pay.”
A friend worked at Diamond Meat, the forerunner of Harris Ranch Beef. “My friend would tell me about the great benefits they had there because they had a Union,” Mendoza recalled.
When his friend told him about a job opening there, Mendoza applied and was hired. He has been with the company ever since.
He works as a Hide Puller, operating a machine that pulls hides from carcasses as they enter the plant for processing.
Mendoza became active in the Union almost immediately upon his employment. He has been on contract negotiation committees over the years and currently serves as a Steward.
He constantly encourages his coworkers to be active in the Union.
“Being active and demonstrating support for the Union leads to greater solidarity,” Mendoza said. “That keeps our Union strong.”
He added: “I know we wouldn’t have benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, health insurance and overtime pay if it wasn’t for the strength of the Union.”
Harris Ranch Beef
Mendoza discovered the importance of his medical benefits firsthand when his wife developed multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.
“She had to undergo 40 days of treatment,” he said. “The cost was $92,000, but I only had to pay $300. I don’t know what we would have done without my health insurance.”
Mendoza said he believes the Union will be even stronger in the future.
“The consolidation of UFCW 1288 into UFCW 8 was a great idea,” he said. “It’s the best thing we could have done because it gives us more numbers and greater bargaining power.
“I’ve had a chance to meet and talk with UFCW 8 President Jacques Loveall, and I found him to be a dynamic and highly motivated leader,” Mendoza said.
After 37 years at the plant, Mendoza looks forward to retirement in a couple of years.
“I plan to spend more time with my children and grandchildren and visit places my wife and I have always wanted to see,” he said.
Reflecting on nearly four decades of working in the industry, Mendoza said he was grateful to be a member of a labor Union.
“Union is the way to go,” he said. “I hope that, in the future, through organizing, more workers in our industry will have the chance to experience the advantages that come with a Union job.”