On Nov. 6, 99 percent of the workers at the General Mills’ production facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, voted down General Mills’ contract proposal. The workers are members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s Local 110. The union called General Mills to share the results of the vote, and the parties have mutually agreed to meet on Nov. 7. However, the worker-led negotiations committee noted that unless General Mills can move on four critical contract provisions at stake, workers will have no choice but to walk out.
“What I’ve seen happening at our union hall this week is the true definition of solidarity. Our members stand strong at General Mills. By standing together and showing the company the real impact this could have on our families, we have shown what having a union is all about. This contract has the potential to change the lives of so many in our community. Unless General Mills makes real substantive changes to the contract, we will be forced to go on strike. It all depends on what the company brings to the table tomorrow,” said Tim Sarver, a General Mills worker who has been with the company more than 37 years.
“Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was built on cereal, and General Mills cereal needs to ensure our city continues to thrive. This worker-led negotiations committee has shown our city what it means to stand up to corporate America tonight. They are doing so to protect their jobs, their families and our local economy. The fact that the company has agreed to come back to the table tomorrow shows that they know their workers are critical to their own success. In order to avoid a strike however, General Mills needs to make real changes to this contract. We are confident our negotiations team led by workers who have spent a combined 130-plus years at the facility will do everything they can to avoid a strike. If General Mills doesn’t move however, they could irreparably harm hundreds of families in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We hope after tonight, we can build a positive working relationship with General Mills that will lift up the hard work our members do every day; let’s see,” said Roger Grobstich, VP of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
“Workers are the real backbone of a company’s success, and General Mills needs to understand that and invest in its workforce. General Mills is America’s No. 1 cereal brand; and their workers deserve a strong contract. These workers cannot, and will not, be treated as disposable,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU.
In the wake of the vote, the union called General Mills to share the results, and the parties mutually agreed to meet on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 7. However, the worker-led negotiations committee noted workers may still walk off the job if there is no movement on the key four areas that workers have raised concerns about.
The 520 workers represented by RWDSU Local 110 at General Mills voted on the contract at the local union hall on Nov. 6. Votes were cast in three groups that correlated with the current shifts at the General Mills facility. The first votes were made at 6 a.m. CDT, and voting concluded at 4:30 p.m. CDT. Of the workers, 99 percent voted to reject the company’s contract proposal, which would have rolled back some of the needed benefits they receive.
At their last negotiations meeting, General Mills had presented a “last, best and final” offer to workers. According to the union, the offer did not include any real protections of a labor contract, and contains insufficient raises, no maintenance of benefits over the term of the contract, and no other provisions that would support workers at the facility and their families. The union said the contract also sought to install unfair scheduling practices, and third-party subcontracting that could move jobs from Cedar Rapids to non-union facilities nearby or abroad.
When General Mills presented their “last, best and final” offer, it triggered a contract vote. According to the union, the workers felt the company left them with little choice—either approve a bad contract or else go on strike.
Workers at General Mills voted to join the RWDSU on Jan. 9, 2019. Throughout the contract negotiations, the union says workers have been fighting for a voice and fair treatment in the workplace, as well as needed paid time off and fair wages.
The RWDSU represents approximately 520 workers at the General Mills manufacturing facility in contract negotiations. The workers in the bargaining unit handle production, sanitation and maintenance at the facility. The Cedar Rapids location produces brands such as; the original Cheerios and other flavor varieties including Honey Nut, Frosted and Multi-Grain and Lucky Charms cereal; as well as fruit snacks including Gushers, Fruit Roll Ups and Fruit by the Foot; and Betty Crocker ready-to-spread frosting. General Mills’ workers are members of Local 110 of the RWDSU, which also represents workers across town at the Quaker Oats facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and at Coles Quality Foods in North Liberty, Iowa.