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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

FDL FOODS INC. Successor to the DUBUQUE PACKING COMPANY. In October 1982 workers left the Dubuque Packing Company company as sale closing began. Banks from throughout the tri-state region were involved in the financing. In 1982 FDL was ranked 31st in sales among the nation's top one hundred meat packers despite the fact that its earnings began late in the year when the company started business.

Union workers lost a great deal in the change to new ownership. Wages were reduced and work rules liberalized. Robert Henry WAHLERT stated the changes were necessary for the operation to remain in business. FDL opened the cut-and-kill operation on October 25th paying workers $6 per hour. During a strike in July 1983, FDL fired 1,200 members of the meat cutters union. This led the union to begin a boycott of FDL products. Meatcutters were recalled on July 22nd and the strike ended on August 28th.

In 1984 FDL ranked 14th among the nation's top one hundred packers with sales in 1983 of $760 million. Meat Industry Magazine ranked FDL 6th among full-line packers and 7th among the pork packers in the category of specific markets. FDL, one of the nation's major meat packers, had plant capacity to slaughter up to eleven thousand hogs daily. The Dubuque plant had an annual production of 250 million HOTDOGS with daily production reaching 96,000 hourly.

FDL newsletter.

The union struck again in September and October 1986 but returned to work after workers received letters from FDL that they would lose their jobs.

The local economy continued to decline. Despite bumper signs declaring "Last one out of Dubuque turn out the lights," the workers approved a new contract in August 1989 calling for a 20-cent increase in base pay to $9.25 per hour.

In July 1993 FDL announced an agreement to supply Hormel Foods Corporation with pork products through 1998. On July 17, 1995 negotiations began on contracts affecting 1,809 employees. Ten days later, FDL announced that its only customer, a subsidiary of Hormel, would stop buying pork from the company in September. The pork plant would close its hog-slaughtering operation and lay off half of its workforce.

FDL and city officials began looking for a buyer. They seemed to have found one in FARMLAND FOODS INC. and the companies signed a letter of intent. In September, 1995 six days before FDL laid off 925 workers, Farmland Foods pulled out of the deal. The following week, FDL and Iowa Beef Processors, Inc. announced that they had signed a letter of intent.

On November 15, 1995 IBP announced it would make the purchase. On January 24, 1996 IBP Chairman Robert Peterson cut his bid for FDL from $15 million to $9.9 million. Disagreement on whether Wahlert agreed to this offer or not led to a lawsuit filed by IBP. On April 1, 1996, a federal court judge ruled that IBP did not have an enforceable agreement to buy FDL. In the meantime, city, state, and local economic development officials contacted Farmland Foods. An agreement worked out in February and contingent on the lawsuit then moved ahead.

Farmland Foods opened the plant in September 1996.

In June, 2000 John Morrell & Co., a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., purchased the Dubuque meatpacking plant ending its hog-slaughtering operation. The 1,100 employees were laid off with company officials saying they had plans to renovate the company with a $10 million investment in new equipment. This never occurred.

In 2005 Wayne BRIGGS led an investment group that purchased the plant and a thirty-acre site. Plans called for the construction of a retail development area. The Dubuque Pack/FDL building was demolished in 2006.

The 1989 through 1993 Dubuque City Directory listed 701 E. 16th St.