AUSTIN, Minn. — On Friday, union officials announced workers at the Hormel plant voted overwhelmingly to reject a "final offer" from the Austin, Minnesota company.
The voting from the meatpacking workers took place over the past two days at the plant and the UFCW Local 663 union hall in Austin, according to a release.
However, a strike won't happen immediately because the union and the company agreed to a contract extension until next month while they continue negotiations.
UFCW Local 663's bargaining committee released this statement on Friday:
"This week our coworkers voted overwhelmingly to reject Hormel's final offer to us. It's simply not good enough. We stand united and are willing to fight for more for our families and our community. Hormel's record profits are just wages not shared fairly with the rest of us. The reality is that we keep Hormel running. We demand that Hormel does better and comes to the table for a fair agreement quickly."
Hormel released this statement after the vote:
“We are disappointed in the vote, especially given the significant contract package offered, however we remain optimistic that we will reach agreement. The parties have agreed to a contract extension until October 8 as we continue negotiations. Hormel Foods has had strong working relationships with the UFCW for decades, including Austin, and remain confident that these positive relationships will continue as we finalize these new agreements.”
The Hormel workers marched on Labor Day to highlight their demands — including higher wages and pensions after they said Hormel made record profits. The UFCW says Hormel's gross profits reached $2.052 billion over the past twelve months.
The Austin plant employs over 1,700 UFCW members, according to the union.
Dave Vang is a professor of finance at the University of St. Thomas.
"Given what happened last time in the '80s, I think there's going to be a tremendous amount of resistance on the part of the union to even allow that to happen," said Vang.
Peter Rachleff is an emeritus professor of history at Macalester College and has written a book on the '80s strikes.
He doesn't think the union will be influenced by the past.
"It's in a sense, a new union," said Rachleff. "This is a completely different workforce."
However, Vang says if there is a strike, Minnesota might see the price of meat go up, and growers may feel the pain, too.
"Some farmers may find a little bit of disruption in trying to find someone who's going to take their cattle for slaughter, and so forth," said Vang.
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