Dutch Ann striker: ‘We gave in, but we didn’t want to’
Published 1:13 pm Friday, September 2, 2022
NATCHEZ — Employees at Dutch Ann Foods Inc., a small frozen food factory located at 716 Liberty Road in Natchez, spent a total of three days on strike in early August before a compromise was made.
“Out of fear of losing our job, we gave in, but we didn’t want to,” said Jennifer McGowan, one of the strikers.
None of the workers who decided to go on strike are part of a worker’s union. The striking workers said they don’t receive any medical benefits or paid holidays. The strikers are also all Black women and the workers who didn’t go on strike are men, McGowan said.
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McGowan said all of the employees who went on strike were offered a pay increase from $8.25 per hour to $11 per hour to continue working. This is still less than other male coworkers make, according to McGowan.
McGowan said while on strike, she and other workers asked for equal pay, fairness in the workplace and air conditioning. None of those conditions were met, she said.
“They said they would bring in some box fans and they haven’t even done that. It’s still not right,” McGowan said
McGowan said if things don’t change, she would go on strike again. “We’re working under stressful conditions,” she said.
Dutch Ann is owned by Bill Jones, who also owns Dozer Contractors located at 14 Moran Road in Natchez. Jones could not be reached for comment.
One of the strikers, Sandra Goodin, said she worked at Dutch Ann for 14 years and the only raise she ever received prior to the strike was a $1 pay increase for COVID-19 hazard pay.
Soon after their pay was increased to $11 per hour, one woman received a termination letter.
“Today is my last day,” said Devonna Johnson on Friday. She worked at Dutch Ann since Jan. 30.
Johnson said she was told the reason she was let go was that she was going to nursing school and couldn’t commit to working scheduled hours. Her class schedule would’ve allowed her to work afternoons three days each week, she said.
“We’d already talked about me going to nursing school and working on the days that I get out of class early and he (the manager) said it’s fine,” Johnson said. “On Wednesday when I came to work, he told me they don’t need me because they needed people to be full-time.”
Johnson said she requested something in writing that states why she was let go.
Her termination letter signed by plant manager Roger Heard states, “We need employees to be able to commit to work all scheduled hours. You not being able to be at work on scheduled days places a hardship on the company and also on your co-workers.”