By Nathan Owens of Agricultural Dive
Meatpacking workers at Hormel Foods’ plant in Austin, Minnesota, voted to reject a “final offer” contract last week in a push for stronger wages, setting the stage for a potential strike at the processor’s largest facility.
“It’s simply not good enough,” said the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 bargaining committee, which represents close to 95% of workers at Hormel’s hometown plant. “Hormel’s record profits are just wages not shared fairly with the rest of us.”
A Hormel spokesperson said that the parties have agreed on a contract extension through Oct. 8 as negotiations continue. The Austin plant is the largest of Hormel’s manufacturing locations, employing 1,800 people and producing more than 1 billion pounds of Spam, pepperoni and other food items each year.
Meatpacking workers “overwhelmingly” voted down Hormel’s contract offer, according to UCFW, with the rejection coming as thousands around the U.S. mobilize to demand big businesses provide better working conditions and distribute record profits.
Detroit auto workers for Ford, GM and Stellantis — known as the Big Three — are on day six of a walk-out strike, pressuring automakers for better benefits and pay as they see record high profits. The Writers Guild of America is expected to resume talks today with major Hollywood studios to improve worker compensation and protections around the use of artificial intelligence, Reuters reported. Nurses, teachers, truck drivers and other essential workers are also in the fight against stagnant wages amid inflation.
“The reality is that we keep Hormel running,” the UFCW Local 633 committee said.
“We demand that Hormel does better and comes to the table for a fair agreement quickly.”
Voting took place Sept. 13 and 14 at the plant and UFCW union hall in Austin. Workers are pushing for higher wages in light of Hormel’s high earnings results, which soared as food companies adjusted their sales prices to compensate for absorbed costs.
Hormel’s gross profits totaled $2.05 billion over the past 12 months, though the company is currently grappling with financial headwinds. The pork processor warned investors of lower than expected earnings this year as it navigated through a period of volatile commodity markets.
“We are disappointed in the vote, especially given the significant contract package offered, however we remain optimistic that we will reach agreement,” the Hormel spokesperson said.