More than 500 workers at Cedar Rapids’ General Mills plant have reached a tentative contract agreement. The deal comes after union members had been warning they might go on strike.
Representatives of Local 110 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have struck a deal, saying they’ve seen movement on key issues like wages, benefits, scheduling and insulating jobs from outsourcing.
The tentative agreement was announced Friday, and followed a new round of talks on Thursday. The parties went back to the negotiating table after 99 percent of the workers voted down General Mills’ proposed contract on Wednesday, and warned they may walk off the job.
Union members say the aim of their negotiations is to secure benefits they say have been scaled back, and that they’ve gained ground.
“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 worker Tim Sarver in a written release.
RWDSU spokesperson Chelsea Connor says the proposed contract is encouraging.
“General Mills has offered a fairly decent benefits package for a long time to workers. It’s been slowly sort of bleeding out over time. And so workers wanted to make sure that they would stop that bleed-out effectively. And this contract and the tentative agreement that we reached today effectively does that,” Connor said. “So to see real movement and real changes, I think this committee can be really proud of their work. And it now goes to members for a vote.”
Workers at the Cedar Rapids plant produce cereals and snacks, including Cheerios, Gushers, Fruit Roll Ups and Betty Crocker frosting.
The negotiations had attracted the attention of some Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, all of whom tweeted their support for the workers.
Members are slated to vote on the contract as soon as next Thursday.