Strike hits Hormel plant in Illinois

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 19, 2001

Workers walked off their jobs Friday at a Rochelle, Ill.

Monday, March 19, 2001

Workers walked off their jobs Friday at a Rochelle, Ill., subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corp.

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Union meatpackers went on strike at Rochelle Foods on after rejecting a four-year contract offer from the company.

More than 850 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers went on strike just before noon Friday, and some 150 started walking a picket line in the snow and wind outside Rochelle Foods.

Union members rejected a contract offer Thursday night, saying the offer was below the inflation rate and the company wants to increase employees’ health insurance contributions. Union representative Chad Young said there was no date set to resume negotiations.

Company officials did not return a message Friday seeking comment.

Rochelle is about 70 miles west of Chicago.

The United Wood and Commercial Workers bargaining unit rejected the company’s final offer last Thursday by a 93 percent margin.

The Rochelle plant is described as an integrated plant, where both pork slaughtering and processing are done.

According to John Morrison, business agent and treasurer for Local 9 of the UFCW, "economics" is at the crux of the labor dispute.

"Wage rates and rising health care costs are the two main issues," Morrison said.

A chain meeting with local bargaining units from other Hormel-owned plants takes place this week, when the Rochelle labor dispute will be discussed.

The contract with Hormel Foods and bargaining unit workers at the Quality Pork Processors Inc. plant in Austin expires in June. Also, the company’s contract with union workers at the company’s flagship Austin plant expires in September 2003.