(CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA) – Tonight, 99% of the workers at the General Mills’ production facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa have voted down General Mills (NYSE:GIS)’ contract proposal. The workers are members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s Local 110. The union called General Mills to share the results of the vote, and the parties have mutually agreed to meet in the morning. However, the worker-led negotiations committee noted that unless General Mills can move on four critical contract provisions at stake, workers will have no choice but to walk out.
“What I’ve seen happening at our union hall this week is the true definition of solidarity. Our members stand strong at General Mills. By standing together and showing the company the real impact this could have on our families, we have shown what having a union is all about. This contract has the potential to change the lives of so many in our community. Unless General Mills makes real substantive changes to the contract, we will be forced to go on strike. It all depends on what the company brings to the table tomorrow,” said Tim Sarver, a 37+ year General Mills worker.
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s Local 110 statements
“Cedar Rapids, Iowa was built on cereal, and General Mills cereal needs to ensure our city continues to thrive. This worker-led negotiations committee has shown our city what it means to stand up to corporate America tonight. They are doing so to protect their jobs, their families, and our local economy. The fact that the company has agreed to come back to the table tomorrow shows that they know their workers are critical to their own success. In order to avoid a strike however, General Mills needs to make real changes to this contract. We are confident our negotiations team led by workers who have spent a combined 130+ years at the facility will do everything they can to avoid a strike.
If General Mills doesn’t move however, they could irreparably harm hundreds of families in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We hope after tonight, we can build a positive working relationship with General Mills that will lift up the hard work our members do every day, let’s see,” said Roger Grobstich, Vice President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
“Workers are the real backbone of a company’s success, and General Mills needs to understand that and invest in its workforce. General Mills is Americas’ #1 cereal brand; and their workers deserve a strong contract. These workers cannot, and will not, be treated as disposable,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
In the wake of the vote, the union called General Mills to share the results of the vote, and the parties mutually agreed to meet on the morning of Thursday, November 7, 2019. However, the worker-led negotiations committee noted workers may still walk off the job if there is no movement on the key four areas that workers have raised concerns about.
The 520 workers represented by RWDSU Local 110 at General Mills voted on the contract at the local union hall on November 6, 2019. Votes were cast in three groups that correlated with the current shifts at the General Mills facility. The first votes were made at 6:00 a.m. CDT, and voting concluded at 4:30 p.m. CDT. 99% of workers voted to reject the company’s contract proposal, which would have rolled back some of the needed benefits they receive.
At their last negotiations meeting, General Mills had presented a “last, best and final” offer to workers. The offer did not include any real protections of a labor contract, and contains insufficient raises, no maintenance of benefits over the term of the contract, and no other provisions that would support workers at the facility and their families. The contract also sought to install unfair scheduling practices, and third-party subcontracting that could move jobs from Cedar Rapids to non-union facilities nearby or abroad.
Department Store Union demands
When General Mills presented their “last, best and final” offer, it triggered a contract vote – which took place on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Workers felt the company left them with little choice – either approve a bad contract or else go on strike.
Workers at General Mills voted to join the RWDSU on January 9, 2019. Winning the right to fair representation, a seat at the table and a real chance to stop the bleed out of their long-held benefits. Throughout the contract negotiations workers have been fighting for a voice and fair treatment in the workplace, as well as needed paid time off and fair wages. General Mills’ last offer provided almost nothing new for workers, potential job losses, and unfair scheduling practices.