MONROE, La. (AP) — Employees at ConAgra Foods' Lamb Weston sweet potato processing plant near Delhi will decide next week whether to unionize.

Workers will vote Wednesday in an election administered by the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether they will join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, reports The News-Star reports. (

ConAgra, based in Omaha, Neb., says it doesn't want a middleman between managers and employees.

"Lamb Weston believes in being a great place to work, and while we respect employees' right to vote in an election, we enjoy working directly with employees at all levels at our Delhi plant," said spokeswoman Teresa A. Paulsen.

Union organizer Ronald Howington says a union would protect workers from unfair treatment. He claims he was fired recently because of his union advocacy.

"A union would protect people like me from getting fired at will," Howington said.

The plant employs 275 workers with an average annual wage of $34,000 to $35,000, according to the company and the state. The state lured the plant with an incentive package worth up to $37.5 million.

State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who helped recruit the plant, said he fears a unionized workforce would jeopardize further expansion in the region from both ConAgra and other potential companies.

"This plant is a shining star in our community with wages that are significantly higher than the average wage in a very poor area," Thompson said. "I'd hate to see anything that would inhibit future growth.

ConAgra's contract with the state calls for the company to decide among three expansion options by the end of this year. Phase 2 of the plant would create between 225 and 325 additional jobs there, depending on which option the company chooses.

"In regard to growth or expansion of Lamb Weston in the area, there are a number of business and marketplace conditions that weigh into those decisions, but those decisions are not impacted by union status," Paulsen said.


Information from: The News-Star,