Over 200 members of UFCW Local 400 who work at the Lipton Tea-Unilever plant in Suffolk, Va., ratified a new contract on Oct. 20.
The two-year contract, which was ratified by an overwhelming margin, includes wage increases for all bargaining unit members, increased time off, and no health and welfare cost hikes. This agreement was reached after challenging negotiations in which management sought to freeze wages, increase the employee share of health care costs, and reduce the amount of time off for employees. The workers not only reversed these demands – they also reduced the vacation time set aside for plant shutdowns and gained Juneteenth as a 13th paid holiday.
Lipton Tea-Unilever employee Terrell Owens served on the Bargaining Committee.
“The company did not want to give anything this time, but we stood our ground and got everything we could,” said Owens. “They wanted to freeze wages and not give annual raises, but the committee stood strong and didn’t flinch. We got everybody a raise. They also wanted to give us Juneteenth as a replacement for one of our other holidays, but we said we wanted Juneteenth as a new holiday along with the others and that’s what we got.”
“Our hard-working members at Lipton stood strong in solidarity and, as a result, won a fair contract that improves their living standards, working conditions and quality of life,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “This is a tribute to their courage, unity and activism.”