April 15, 2008


Albert Lea, MN-Three hundred workers in Cargill Meat Solutions’ Albert Lea plant (formerly Schweigert Foods) have ratified a new contract which delivers wage increases, establishes a defined benefit pension plan, and makes tremendous improvements in health care-at a significant savings for workers. The workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 6 and work at the meat processing plant making lunch meats, bratwursts, chicken tenders and chicken wings among other products. A majority voted to ratify the contract on Sunday, April 13, 2008.

The new contract:

–Delivers wage increases including $1.40/hr increase over the next four years-including $0.50 on January 5, 2009. The increase will bring the base rate to $13.20 by the end of the contract.

-Vastly improves health care, dental care, and prescription drug coverage. The 2008 Cargill plan will reduce individual and family deductibles; reduce the amount paid for coinsurance; reduce co-pays for preventive care; reduce co-pays for and office visits for primary care physicians and specialists; reduce the amount paid for emergency room care; lower the maximum for out of pocket expenses; eliminate the deductible and reduces co-pays for prescription drugs; and enhances the affordable family dental plan.

–Improves retirement security by establishing a new defined benefit pension plan. The plan ensures a guaranteed income of $22.50 per month, per year of service for retirees. In 2011, that amount will increase to $25.00 per month per year. Employees will still be able to make contributions to their existing 401(k) plan.

“”We are very pleased with this contract,”” says Pat Neilon, President of UFCW Local 6. “”We were able to negotiate an enormously better health plan, with significant cost savings for our members. And, the new defined benefit pension plan will be better for our members because it guarantees income in retirement and it doesn’t take any money out of workers’ pockets.”” Previously, Cargill workers could choose to contribute to a 401(k) plan with 2% company match, but only a quarter of employees took advantage of the plan.

“”With the union, we were able to negotiate a pension plan-which is especially good for the younger folks who have a chance to put a lot of years in-and you don’t have to fund it yourself out of your paycheck,”” said Richard Peterson, a 30-year employee of the Albert Lea plant. “”Not too many companies offer a pension anymore. But the pension is guaranteed and I think that’s a big deal.””