SAUGET, ILL. - Saturday, UFCW Local 655 workers had a big decision to make: Accept the latest contract offer from employer Holten Meat, or turn down the offer and hit the picket line.
Members cast their ballots and the result was a landslide.
"76% of the people here have voted to authorize a strike," said David Cook, UFCW Local 655 president. "Folks, we are on strike."
13-year Holten Meat employee Cynthia Stratmann was part of that group.Striking wasn't her first choice and she knows tough times await during the work stoppage.
"My dad was in the union, my sister was in the union and they went on strike, too," said Stratmann. "So I know what it's going to be like. It's going to be hard."
Workers who walk the picket line are given a strike benefit of about 30% of their regular pay. Still, Stratmann said the union made the right decision.
"Hopefully with us going on strike, they'll realize we're not playing games and they'll actually give us what we want," said Stratmann.
Union members also rejected a contract offer from Holten Meat last weekend. Leaders said the offer didn't include language that recognized seniority for workers applying for new shifts at the plant.
"Really, it's a very simple process and we have it in almost every contract we have. And that is that when a job becomes available if you're qualified for that job, you're allowed to bid on it," said another person."All things being equal, the prevailing factor shall be seniority. That's what we look for here.
Holten Meat workers pack and ship frozen beef patties to local and regional supermarkets. The company said it will remain open during the strike.
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