Hormel workers vote to ratify new contract

(ABC 6 News) – The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has announced that workers at all four Hormel meatpacking plants have overwhelmingly voted to ratify their recently negotiated contract.

The announcement came six days after UFCW Local 663 union leaders reached a tentative agreement with Hormel, and just over a month after rejecting the company’s “final offer;” which the union described at the time as “not good enough.”

“Our members who work at Hormel Foods locations in Minnesota, Georgia, Wisconsin and Iowa voted today to ratify a contract that includes the largest wage increase in the company’s history,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “In addition to gaining hourly wage increases of $3-$6 an hour, the new contract nearly doubles bereavement leave, protects healthcare coverage, and increases both pension and 401k benefits.”

For more than a month, union leaders pressed Hormel for a better offer, stating that the company’s profits reached over $2 billion in 2022 and called on them to fairly share those profits with the workers who keep their plants running.

The union says workers are pleased with this new contract as it contains many of their requests that were pushed for in negotiations.

According to Perrone’s statement, it appears as if the union was largely successful in their efforts to push for higher wages, increased benefits, and secure pensions.

Rena Wong, president of UFCW Local 663 says this contract recognizes the essential work meat packers across Hormel’s plants given since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just wanted to make sure that folks understand that meatpacking workers have kept us fed through all of these years throughout the pandemic,” said Wong. “Before that, and will continue to keep us fed after. And to make sure that folks understand that when meat packing workers do better we all do better.”

Hormel did send out a statement on the results of the contract, the statement said, “We are proud to continuously invest in our people in recognition of the work they do to put the safe, quality food that consumers trust and need on tables across the globe.”

The news is welcome for the city of Austin, who hosts the largest number of Hormel plant workers across the country at roughly 1,700. It also dissolves any prospect of a strike.

The new deal impacts workers at other major plants across three other states, Georgia, Iowa, and Wisconsin but for Austin, which has the largest plant, this deal hits home.

It officially takes the prospect of a strike off the table, a welcome development for a city that was scarred by the Hormel strike of 1985-86.

“The strike was a big deal for a lot of people. It broke up families,” said Heather Wagner, owner of Brik’s Furniture in downtown Austin. “My grandparents, my uncle, they lived through that strike, worked through that strike and had to chose to go back because otherwise, they wouldn’t survive.”

Wong added to this saying that these workers were willing to fight for what they earned in the new contract.

“Workers can win what they’re willing to fight for. Those members in Austin were ready to fight and put their hearts into it and that’s why they won these wages and these benefits that really help their families,” she said.

Now that workers will earn more of the profit that Hormel has held onto over the last few years, people in Austin are looking forward to that money proliferating in the community.

“I think it’s a great, big deal for our community to know if we have more of that money spent within our community, the more dollars that stay here, the better off businesses are,” Wagner said. “Especially small businesses, small businesses like mine that rely heavily on our community.”

The newly ratified contract will be in effect for the next four years.