July 27, 2011
Cargill workers and members of UFCW Local 2 in Dodge City, Kansas have begun working under their newly ratified contract. Workers were able to negotiate some creative new policies that are already making a real difference in their family lives – and in their paychecks.
Wage increases total $1.60 per hour over the next four years, including an immediate 55 cents per hour raise. Workers also negotiated job upgrades for more than 300 workers. For those workers, the contract means an additional and immediate raise of anywhere from 55 cents to $1.20 per hour. The new contract has four ways workers can earn overtime. In addition to earning time and a half after 40 hours per week, overtime is also paid after 8 hours a day, and after six consecutive work days. If there’s a holiday during the week, Saturdays are counted as overtime. A new leave of absence policy guarantees workers’ jobs if they need to leave for an extended period of time because of a family emergency like a child’s or parent’s illness. Workers can take up to a year and a half off and return to the job (or similar job) and rate of pay they were earning beforehand.
The contract maintains affordable family health benefits, and for about a third of the workers, depending on the type of plan, premiums went down between $8 and $12 per week. But, now in the case of a serious illness where someone might miss several days of work at a time, that worker is eligible for sick benefits of up to $300 per week without any extra cost—a real safety net for single parents, or for families struggling to get by in this economy.
“It is only because we are united in our union that we were able to negotiate these pay and benefit improvements,” says Clemente Torres a member of UFCW Local 2.
“Our new contract gives peace of mind,” says Carmen Lopez, another UFCW Local 2 member and Cargill worker. “Dodge City is a small place, and with the economy the way it is, people are lucky to have a union job here. Once you get it, you really want to keep it. Because of the union contract, I know if I get very sick, my family can still get by, and the job will be there. Sometimes in your life, you have an emergency where you have to focus on something else – maybe your parents’ health or you have some kind of other emergency. With this contract, God forbid, if an emergency happens, you don’t have to pick between your job and your family. I can focus on my family and take the time I need, knowing I can count on my job being there when I’m ready.”