Union, General Mills reach tentative contract agreement, avoiding strike

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union's Local 110 which represents more than 500 workers at the General Mills plant in Cedar Rapids has reached a tentative contract agreement with the company, narrowly avoiding a strike.

The General Mills production facility in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 (Jackie Kennon/KCRG)

The union says the contract could be ratified as early as Nov. 14. A negotiations committee expects workers to vote in favor of the agreement.

The tentative agreement comes after workers threatened to strike if the company did not meet the union's needs. Union members said they never wanted to walk out.

"They were pushed to the edge by a company that has for far too long been slowly stripping away their long-held needed benefits. The fact that the company came back to the table immediately following a 99% no vote on a bad contract shows the strength of our members and the impact their work has on the company every day. Even more encouraging, our worker-led negotiations committee was able to get the company to move on four key areas of the contract that members took grave issue with; protecting the outsourcing of their jobs, no maintenance of their benefits, unfair scheduling and wage increases. Now it goes to a vote of the membership,” said Roger Grobstich, Vice President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

The union has not released the details of the latest agreement.

“Our membership stood strong in the face of a strike, and I am incredibly proud of our worker-led negotiations committee’s dedication to bringing us back from the brink last night. General Mills moved significantly away from the ‘last, best and final’ offer that would have taken away benefits we’ve had for over 30 years. Our committee unanimously recommends this contract for ratification. I am confident we will all be going to work with the peace of mind of a strong union contract soon,” said Tim Sarver, who works at the company.

In General Mills' previous offer last week, the union said the proposed contract did not include a significant pay increase, did not allow employees to maintain their benefits and took away overtime and premium pay. It also reportedly included unfair scheduling practices.

Union members said they needed the company to move on four parts of the contract before being able to reach an agreement. The union said its employees would walk out if the company could not meet is requests. The union never revealed what the four parts included.

On Thursday, union members met with General Mills leaders, saying conversations had been productive.

This is the first contract the RWDSU Local 110 is negotiating with General Mills. About 520 workers joined the union in January 2019. Members say that by standing together and showing the real impact this could have on families, they have shown what having a union is all about.

General Mills released a statement to KCRG-TV9 confirming the agreement.