Sun-Maid workers go on strike over wages and healthcare costs
KINGSBURG, Calif. (FOX26 NEWS) —
Workers at Sun-Maid have gone on strike.
According to employees, they walked off the job at 3 p.m. Monday with a list of three demands: They want higher wages; a better healthcare plan; and more contributions to their pensions.
This strike happened during peak raisin picking time.
Patricia Garcia, who works in quality control at Sun-Maid, says the strike has been a long time coming.
"What led to the strike that's happening today is that we've been going to so many meetings, and the company's not wanting to give us what we want," said Garcia.
Teamsters, the labor union representing the Sun-Maid workers, have been in negotiations for a new contract since April.
"This is a group of workers who are relatively on the low end of the pay scale, and who work hard every single day and provide a great deal of support for the community," said Peter Nuñez, the President of Teamsters Union Local 431 Fresno. "They don't want to have to go on strike, but this is something they feel they have to do in order for the company to present a reasonable and fair offer."
Under the Sun-Maid employees' old contract, they didn't have to contribute to their health insurance plan, but now, Sun-Maid wants them to.
"We had our last meeting, and the contract that the company was offering was not what we want. We don't want to pay insurance, and we want a fair raise," said Garcia.
That was the tipping point that led to the strike. The Union says the workers would be contributing to a plan that has such high deductibles, most wouldn't even be able to use it.
The workers say they'll stay on strike as long as it takes for Sun-Maid to meet their demands.
Here's a statement from Sun-Maid about the strike:
We can confirm that the union has called a strike, effective this afternoon.
Earlier this year, the three-year labor contract between Sun-Maid and the Teamsters Union expired. Prior to, and since the expiration, a Sun-Maid negotiating team has been attempting to secure another positive multi-year contract while working under a temporary contract extension.
Following multiple rounds of negotiation, the Teamsters Union and Sun-Maid management reached a Tentative Agreement on Wednesday, August 8. While fully endorsed by Teamsters Union leadership, we were disappointed to see the Tentative Agreement voted down and not ratified by Teamsters members on Sunday, August 12. As we were unable to reach an agreement, the terms of the Tentative Agreement were implemented on Monday, August 20.
While the decision is unfortunate, Sun-Maid has the right processes and contingency plans in place to meet demand and maintain a responsible business practice. We know our customers, growers and employees may have questions, and we are actively engaging each of these groups around next steps.
We have been incredibly proud that all employee contracts to date have included 100% medical benefit coverage paid by Sun-Maid. Past contracts have even maintained this rare benefit yet also provided year-over-year wage increases. The new contract includes multiple medical insurance options, increased year-over-year, market-competitive wages, continued pension contributions and increased premiums on high job classes to encourage our workforce to adopt opportunities and continually develop their skills for technical application.
We are confident these benefits serve the best interests of our employees and our business, and we remain committed to ensuring Sun-Maid remains on a strong path forward toward future growth and sustainability.