Teamsters Local 120 brought a message to stockholders attending the annual meeting of CHS, Inc. Thursday: negotiate in good faith with the union.
Local 120 represents a group of 32 workers at a CHS fuel blending facility in Inver Grove Heights, where the company also maintains its corporate headquarters. Monday, the workers voted to authorize their leadership to call a strike.
|UPDATE: Teamsters Local 120 settles contract with CHS|
Workers at a fuel blending facility in Inver Grove Heights have won an acceptable contract settlement after their union, Teamsters Local 120, stepped up public pressure on their employer, Cenex Harvest States. Last week, Workday Minnesota ran stories about the workers and Teamsters Local 120 representatives passing out leaflets to customers at Cenex gas stations and at the company’s annual stockholders meeting in Minneapolis, urging phone calls to ask the company to bargain in good faith.
Friday morning, Teamsters Local 120 met in federal mediation with Cenex Harvest States for two hours, reported Bryan Rademacher, Local 120 recording secretary and business agent.
Rademacher said the public pressure evidently had “a huge impact” on the negotiations. “That issue was raised,” he said. “They were not happy we went and did what we did at their shareholders meeting.”
At the mediation session Friday, the company agreed to one of the workers’ main concerns, that full-time workers should not be replaced by temporary workers. “The company took the temporary employee proposal off the table,” Rademacher said. “That was the big issue.”
In addition, Rademacher said, the company agreed to add a fourth year to the proposed three-year contract, including annual wage increases with “nice increases” in the third and fourth years.
The group of 29 workers voted Friday evening on the proposed settlement and “it was accepted overwhelmingly,” Rademacher reported.
A week ago, workers had rejected the company’s contract proposal and voted to authorize union leadership to call a strike.
The company’s new proposal, Rademacher said, came “as a result of us putting pressure on the company through our handbilling and through our attending the shareholders meeting.”
“The company has made record profits during the past four years,” the Teamster Local 120 leaflet read, “and it’s time the company starts sharing those profits with the men and women responsible for the company’s success — its workers.”
At the company’s annual meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center today, a group of about one dozen Teamsters Local 120 representatives passed out fluorescent yellow leaflets to CHS stockholders in meeting rooms and in the hallways. In another show of union visibility, the brightly-painted Teamsters Local 120 semi-trailer truck parked outside the convention center.
After passing out leaflets to CHS stockholders urging the company to negotiate in good faith, representatives of Teamsters Local 120 posed for a photo (above). The Teamsters Local 120 semi-trailer greeted delegates entering the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Photos by Steve Share
“The company had record profits over the past four years. We’re asking the company to step up to the plate and share those profits with the workers,” explained Bryan Rademacher, Teamsters Local 120 business agent and recording secretary.
The workers’ three-year contract expired at the end of October 2009 and now a 30-day extension also has expired, Rademacher said.
During contract negotiations with CHS, he reported, “we met six to seven times, two times with federal mediators.” Another mediation session was scheduled for December 4.
Among the issues in the contract dispute: “they’re trying to use temporary workers to reduce the opportunities for full-time workers,” Rademacher said.
According to the CHS website, “CHS is the nation’s largest cooperative refiner and a significant wholesaler and reseller of refined fuels. Our Cenex convenience store chain is among the 20 largest in the United States.”
CHS was formed in 1998 by the merger of two regional cooperatives, Cenex, Inc. and Harvest States Cooperatives.
The company reported earnings of $803 million last year, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reported. Although profits were down for 2009, the company still expected its fourth-best profit in its history, led by CHS’s energy sector, including its refined fuels.
At the Inver Grove Heights facility, many of the workers are long-time employees, Rademacher reported. Their work involves blending fuel to make products sold under the Cenex brand and also sold under other brands.
“We’re looking for a reasonable contract,” said Brad Slawson, Jr., president of Teamsters Local 120. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”
The leaflet Teamsters Local 120 passed out at the CHS stockholders meeting urged calls to the company at 651-355-6000 to ask CHS to bargain in good faith with the union.
The company had its own message to stockholders about the contract dispute and possible strike, printed on a placard displayed near the registration desk for the annual meeting: The message read, in part, that CHS “will use replacement workers – including management staff and outside hires” to continue operations.
Teamsters Local 120 members also are leafleting this week at Cenex gas station stores.
Steve Share edits the Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. Learn more at www.minneapolisunions.org
Teamsters leaflet Cenex gas stations as contract talks stall