The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU) Local 110 said that more than 500 workers at the General Mills processing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have reached a tentative contract agreement with the company. The worker-led negotiation committee said it worked to secure a strong tentative agreement that stops the bleed out of their long-held needed benefits package. The committee will recommend workers vote in favor of this agreement, and the contract could be ratified as early as Nov. 14. Meanwhile, the union, which also represents the Cedar Rapids Quaker Oats facility, said workers there have ratified a new contract.
“Our membership stood strong in the face of a strike, and I am incredibly proud of our worker-led negotiations committee’s dedication to bringing us back from the brink last night. General Mills moved significantly away from the ‘last, best and final’ offer that would have taken away benefits we’ve had for over 30 years. Our committee unanimously recommends this contract for ratification. I am confident we will all be going to work with the peace-of-mind of a strong union contract soon,” said Tim Sarver, a General Mills worker who has been with the company more than 37 years.
“Not a single one of our union members at General Mills ever wanted to walk out of the facility and go on strike. They were pushed to the edge by a company that has for far too long been slowly stripping away their long-held needed benefits. The fact that the company came back to the table immediately following a 99 percent no vote on a bad contract shows the strength of our members and the impact their work has on the company every day. Even more encouraging, our worker-led negotiations committee was able to get the company to move on four key areas of the contract that members took grave issue with; protecting the outsourcing of their jobs, no maintenance of their benefits, unfair scheduling and wage increases. Now it goes to a vote of the membership,” said Roger Grobstich, VP of the RWDSU.
The ratification of the General Mills contract is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14. The negotiations committee expects it will be ratified.
Quaker Oats’ new contract
On Nov. 7, Local 110 of the RWDSU, said that nearly 700 workers at the Quaker Oats processing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have ratified a new contract. The worker-led negotiation committee said it worked to secure a strong contract that guarantees annual wage increases among other provisions that will improve workers’ jobs and their work-life balance. The workers in the bargaining unit handle production at the facility, which produces and supplies most of America’s Quaker Oats products. Iowa is a Right-to-Work state, and the RWDSU has 100 percent union density at the Quaker facility. This means everyone in the bargaining unit is a union member.
“Working at Quaker Oats knowing we have a strong union contract makes my family feel secure. In this contract, our union has ensured workers here remain strong. We are proud to be the economic engine of our community especially at a facility that has been operating here for over a hundred years. Today we ratified a contract that I know will ensure I can support my family—that matters. Our negotiations team led by my coworkers did an incredible job swiftly ensuring our wages and benefits would grow for years to come,” said Maurice Anderson, who has worked at Quaker Oats for 18 years.
“Our worker-led negotiations team secured a contract that ensures our community can thrive for years to come. We are incredibly proud of what they have done here. Workers at Quaker Oats have made the brand what it is today. In this contract, the company has shown that they know that our union members have fueled their growth. Quaker Oats has shown that it’s possible to be a responsible employer in Cedar Rapids, other companies should learn from them,” said Shane Forbes, president of Local 110 of the RWDSU.
The Quaker Oats contract was ratified after three voting sessions that took place on Thursday, Nov. 7.
The Quaker Oats contract will be in effect for four years and includes provisions such as:
- Annual general hourly wage increases over the term of the contract equaling 10 percent over the proposed new four-year term; workers will receive a signing bonus as well.
- Significant wage increases for new workers on wage progression.
- Vacation enhancements, including day-at-a-time use.
- Protections against being forced to work during holiday weekends (i.e. Labor Day weekend etc.).
- There were also numerous improvements to the contract language, which the union says will help workers on the job and with work-life balance.
Quaker Oats’ workers are members of Local 110 of the RWDSU, which also represents workers at Coles Quality Foods in North Liberty, Iowa.