Increased member activism, including a vote authorizing a strike and concrete preparations for carrying one out, resulted in a new contract for Local 777 with Treehouse Foods that includes significant wage gains, a reduction in healthcare costs, and addresses several core non-economic issues.
Under the local’s previous contract, increased healthcare costs had eaten up a significant chunk of their raise. This contract freezes healthcare contributions for two years and actually reduces them in the third year, during which the contribution rate will change from a hard dollar amount to a percentage of a worker’s annual base rate.
In the previous contract healthcare contributions as a percent of base rate rose from 2.56 percent for single and 7.95 percent for family to 3.62 percent for single and 11.22 percent for family. The new contract guarantees that healthcare contributions will range from 3 percent of base rate for single to 10 percent of base rate for family coverage and cannot rise above that.
The contract provides for wage increases of 2.5, 2.75 and 2.75 percent. The sickness and accident benefit rate was raised to 60 percent of base rate, the allowance for safety shoes and glasses was increased, and every member is now guaranteed three continuous scheduled paid days for bereavement leave.
The local also won language to protect workers’ schedules and time off, including a provision to make sure that less-senior workers can protect vacation time while taking family and medical leave. The contract includes improved protection against unfair discipline, improved language on job bidding and transfers, and protections for the union and the contract if the facility is ever sold.
The willingness of Local 777 members to strike was “absolutely key” to winning the contract. Management was sufficiently worried that they began assigning clerical staff production positions in preparation for a strike.
The Local 777 negotiating committee consisted of President Mike Watts, Chief Steward Jake Stewart, Vice President Mike Hyme, Recording Secretary Donna Colvin, John Appleton, Craig Davison, and Tom Hinkle. They were assisted by Field Organizer Hayden Schortman and retired International Representative Dennis Painter.