Swift plant workers rally to save 1300 jobs in Butchertown


by Chase Cain


Posted on November 16, 2009 at 1:00 AM

Monday morning, the Metro Board of Zoning will take up the battle of Butchertown. It's between residents and the Swift meat-packing plant. The result could be a death sentence for the plant or at least in its current location.

Swift workers rallied late Sunday by the hundreds. They hope the Board of Zoning will overlook violations by their employer and let them keep their jobs. Zoning has several options.

Many include keeping the Swift plant open, right where it is, but there is the worst case scenario for Swift.  That's what spurred Sunday's march through Butchertown.

More than 200 strong with handwritten signs and heart-felt concern, the workers from Butchertown's Swift meat-packing plant made themselves known.

Suzie Karneh walked to this rally to join her co-workers and save her job at Swift.

“If it shut down- I bought my house so I can walk to work. I don't have a car. The little money I make here- I send my children to school. My youngest is in college. How am I going to pay my bills?" she asked.

Suzie and 1300 others could be out of work if Louisville's Board of Zoning decides to revoke the plant's license to operate because Swift broke local rules.

It is the plant's own namesake neighborhood, Butchertown, that has been fighting Swift. Some want the smelly, noisy operation moved elsewhere, but the neighborhood's attorney says there can be compromise.

"We just want to assure them that we support the workers. No one is going to lose their job, but we have got to insist on compliance at the plant. And if we really want to get serious about job security, we ought to get serious about compliance," Jon Salomon told WHAS11.

Still, Swift workers fear the unemployment line, regardless of whatever rules their employer may have broken. So, they circled the neighborhood with their concern on parade.

"I'm currently 57 years old. I have an 8 year old son. This job is very important to me. It's been my life for 17 years. This is a beautiful neighborhood. I love coming here to work and I don't understand why people can't let us stay here and work," Jim Donnelly said as he marched through Butchertown.

The Neighborhood Association says stay, just clean up your act, Swift, but it is Swift's own actions up to this point that could end up costing the company a lot.

Butchertown's two main complaints involve the construction of a hog chute at the plant and Swift's use of a parking lot to store meat in semi trailers. The Board of Zoning will have to address those issues Monday morning at 8:30, and many Swift workers and Butchertown residents say they'll be there.