After nine months of bargaining, UFCW Local 324 reached an agreement with Americold on a first contract for 40 new members. The Americold employees sought union representation almost a year ago, in response to constantly changing company policies and working conditions, high premiums for health insurance; and inadequate wages.
These issues were all addressed and employees voted on Feb. 11 to accept the new five-year agreement. All members will receive an immediate wage increase and a reduced monthly premium for health insurance.
The vote came after nearly an hour–long presentation by Secretary-Treasurer Andrea Zinder that included detailed questions from members eager to see how they were affected by the final contract.
The contract came after a particularly bitter dispute between management and the union that centered on the size and scope of the bargaining unit.’ The case made its way past arbitration, the National Labor Relations Board and was ultimately appealed to the federal courts.
“It’s a good turning point, “said member Victor Villareal. He said that he and most of the members remained confident that the union would succeed in securing a contract, despite the company’s resistance.
Many members said that while they were happy with the raises and lower insurance costs, it was the expanded menu of protections that will have the greatest impact on their jobs. “This is the first one and I see it getting better and better,” said member Oscar Aguilar.
Secretary-Treasurer Andrea Zinder singled out members of the bargaining committee for keeping their co-workers informed and united during the long and sometimes frustrating process. They are: Anthony Williams, Juan Padilla, Joseph Gutierrez, Jose Ramirez and David Velasquez.