On Wednesday Jan. 21,2009, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 179 in Cherokee voted on a contract proposal offered by Tyson Deli Inc. The rank and file members voted the proposal down with a 98 percent "no" vote.
According to UFCW Local 179 President Jim Brummond, Tyson had proposed a one-year contract with a wage freeze along with a 2 percent signing bonus to be paid up front.
"It's been since 2003 since we had seen our last increase in wages," said Brummond.
"In 2004 we received a five-year wage freeze, a frozen pension, plus the loss in severance pay. Also, since the last contract, new hires at the plant can only reach a top base pay of $11 per hour, whereas people hired prior to the last contract have a top base pay of $12.15 per hour. We also had to pay for our own healthcare since the last contract and we only received a 2 percent yearly bonus and that doesn't even pay for the health insurance premiums," said Brummond
"That last contract took away a lot of purchasing power from our members to support our local businesses." Brummond also added "We currently have 386 members. In 2004 there were 611 members in the union. Since 2004, Tyson has eliminated 200 hourly workers. That's over a $5 million loss in the local economy per year."
Brummond also stated this example: "Former Tyson CEO Richard Bond was paid a compensation of $17.8 million that would have been more than enough money for a $1 an hour increase for all our workers to last for more the 20 years. That is money being taking out of the community."
The 2004 contract between Tyson and the UFCW Local 179 expired on Jan. 3 and the union is working for an extension to that contract.
"The UFCW Local 179 is planning to continue to bargain in good faith with Tyson to achieve some type of pay raise," said Brummond.
Gary Mickelson, spokesperson for Tyson Foods Inc. out of Springdale, Ark., had the following comments about the vote:
"While we had hoped for a different outcome, we don't expect any disruption in plant operations. Terms of the existing contract, which was scheduled to expire in early January, are being extended indefinitely. We hope to continue discussions with union negotiators in an effort to work out an equitable agreement," said Mickelson.