The union representing thousands of workers at a Canadian Cargill Inc. meat-packing plant is set to stage a strike that could upend meat markets.
According to Bloomberg, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 gave Cargill notice that a strike beginning Dec. 6 would occur. The strike could paralyze the plant, responsible for approximately 40% of Canada's beef processing capacity.
UFCW Local 401 said workers at the facility in High River are flexing their muscles with Cargill. They demand reasonable wage increases and better benefits.
"They're big and they're bad, but we are not afraid," UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse wrote in a statement this week.
On Nov. 4, 1,400 Cargill union members voted to strike or about three-quarters of the plant. Of those who voted, 97% favored a strike if the company didn't meet its demands.
A Cargill spokesperson told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that discussions are continuing:
"We remain optimistic that we can come to the table and reach an agreement," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The proposed labor strike next month could be very problematic for North American consumers. The facility is a top processor in Canada, and any downtime could result in 'meatflation' and shortages at supermarkets. Rising meat prices would be more bad news for consumers that have just seen prices rise the fastest in four decades.
A strike wouldn't just affect the meat supply, which in return boosts prices. It will be devastating for farmers who wouldn't be able to send their livestock to slaughterhouses for processing. This creates a bottleneck of too much livestock, usually resulting in farmers culling herds.
Cargill is not alone when it comes to strikes or pending ones. More than 10,000 workers at John Deere have been striking since last month. More than a thousand Kellogg workers continue to strike. Other unions are preparing for walkouts of their own as labor shortages give workers the upper hand.
If next month's strike is seen, beef prices in North America could soar even higher as supply shortages would compound an already worsening supply chain crisis.