Heinz workers in Fremont, Ohio, and Muscatine, Iowa, have ratified two separate five-year deals with the company. Although they were working to negotiate two different contracts, the members (who belong to UFCW Locals 75 and 431, respectively) worked together to make sure both groups left the table with a good deal.
Committee members from each local routinely attended and supported the negotiations of their sister plant, and distributed handbills that let their co-workers and the company know that while the details of their contracts might be different, their priorities – affordable health care, and good jobs with middle class opportunities – were the same.
“We can’t stand alone,” said Bob Bigford from the Muscatine plant. “The consequences are mighty when you stand alone.” Both units were able to negotiate 3% wage increases every year for each year of the contract as well as an increase in their pension contributions. Both units also maintained affordable health care benefits. In Muscatine, negotiations reduced the waiting period for medical, vision, and dental eligibility. In addition, they were also able to add limits to the use of temporary workers, improve tool allowances, shorten and simplify grievance language, and improve language that allows union representatives access to the plant.
Kyle Smith, a member of Local 431, was glad the bargaining committee was able to address the issue of temporary workers. “People want to stay, and they work hard to keep a job at Heinz. They want a permanent job, and I want them to have the same opportunity I did.”