UFCW members march amidst continued union contract talks with Hormel

Published 3:30 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

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In a celebration of the worker on Monday, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 came together for a Labor Day march that carried their conviction for worker improvements throughout downtown Austin.

The march, which stopped briefly in front of the SPAM Museum and stretched down to near the museum’s old location, wasn’t just about celebration though. It was also about solidarity.

“Our members today are marching, having a celebration together for unity as we continue negotiations with Hormel,” said UFCW President Rena Wong, just eight months into her new position. “It’s absolutely important for the whole community to see them and (for them to) be seen and be visible around the sacrifices they made that kept our country fed.”

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Between 500-800 estimated people were expected for Monday’s march, which comes just six days before the current union contract with the Fortune 500 company expires on Sept. 10.

Wong said negotiations continue this week and with it are hopes that the Hormel recognizes what the company’s employees have done during a very difficult time period that included the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is what we want. We want to be able to get to an agreement that really respects our members’ work that keeps Hormel running,” Wong said. “In that spirit, we hope we can continue having good conversations that lead to a collective bargaining agreement.”

Even though there was a point of solidarity to Monday’s march, it didn’t take away from the celebration of the worker on Labor Day.

“Labor Day is meant to celebrate workers, the sacrifices workers have made and originally was meant to be the day to commemorate workers and forming unions to have better wages, working conditions,” Wong said. “This is especially important as our members are essential workers who need all of those things.”

As the long line of chanting, whistle-blowing union members wove their way through downtown Austin, they received some waves and blowing horns from passing members of the community.

For those taking part in the march, like German Munoz who has been with the Hormel and the union for over 20 years, it meant a lot.

“That we have our community support and we have this march; it’s nice to see all the employees at Hormel and the community outside of Hormel participate in this event,” he said. “It means a lot. Honestly, from the bottom of our heart, we appreciate everyone’s support.”

The march also served to demonstrate how much the union itself has done for workers, something that certainly wasn’t lost on them.

“It’s a great feeling to have this many people here showing their support which we all need,” said 37-year employee Bernie Brandsmeier. “They have helped us all — questions members have, explaining things and helping them out.”

To continue that work, Wong said that the union has hopes that it and the company can come to an agreement that meets the union’s goals for its members.

“We hope Hormel comes up with a more respectful proposal for our members in terms of their wages, health insurance, retirement,” she said. “Things that are of the utmost importance to not only Hormel members, but really all workers.”