Swift plant stays open, could still move and expand

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by Chase Cain

WHAS11.com

Posted on November 16, 2009 at 11:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 17 at 12:55 AM

Butchertown's meat-packing plant avoids the chopping block , and it's a relief for the hundreds of employees at Swift. While some in the neighborhood don't like the decision, Monday's Board of Zoning meeting revealed big changes could still be in store for Swift.

David Tandy, the Metro Council President and Mayoral candidate, spilled it. He told the zoning board they should keep Swift open because city leaders have a plan.

They've been working for months to find a new home for Swift in Louisville but away from  Butchertown. Instead of losing 1300 jobs, the potential move could actually bring hundreds of new jobs to the area.

Sunday’s marching and chanting with signs through Butchertown turned, Monday, to sitting and waiting in the Board of Zoning meeting for a decision.

Swift employee Claude Wright said, "personally, if you revoke the license I might not have a job."

His co-worker Bob Nephews echoed his possible hardship, "I got a wife laid off. I got a daughter who's a senior in high school. She works at K-mart part-time. She was told after Christmas K-mart is closing."

Worker after worker took the podium telling the board not to axe their jobs at Swift by revoking the company's license to operate. Swift could've lost that license because the Butchertown neighborhood got upset when the plant broke local rules.

"They smell green. If they can close that plant and get control of that property- they can make millions. So that's what it's about. Make no mistake," Workers’ Union President Gary Best told WHAS11.

Even the Metro Countil President admitted, yes, the Swift property could be re-developed in Butchertown, but he revealed that shouldn't happen until after Metro Council can finish a deal to move Swift to an industrial part of Jefferson County.

"While I'm prohibited from disclosing a lot of details because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations back and forth. I can say that of this year we're extremely close to having a deal structured."

A successful deal could mean big bucks for Louisville and hundreds of new jobs too. The Zoning Board saw the value in that, voting 4 to 2 to keep Swift open despite their violations.

The vote brought relief to Swift’s 1300 workers like Kevin Diale. "We're just regular, average people. We work with our hands. We make an honest day's living. And for somebody to come in and try to pull the rug out from under us is a slap in the face."

Union leaders say their members are relieved to still be working tonight, but that this has been frustrating because hundreds of Swift workers live in Butchertown and walk to work.

As for the plan for Swift to move-- the company won't comment, but Council President Tandy says they hope to finalize the details sometime next year.

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