Two weeks after walking off the job, striking Sun-Maid workers approved a new contract on Tuesday and will be headed back to work.
The contract reflects a 9 percent increase in value from the previous three-year contract, according to Sun-Maid spokesman Erin Stevenson.
The new agreement is effective immediately and workers returned to work on Wednesday.
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The new contract includes “an increase in year-over-year, market competitive wages, monthly medical contributions throughout every year of the contract, and an increased pension contributions in the second and third year of the agreement,” Stevenson said in a news release.
Sun-Maid president and CEO Harry Overly said he was pleased about the contract.
“The continued, long-term growth and sustainability of Sun-Maid rely on responsible business decisions that offer stability for both our employees and our partners, and we are optimistic that we achieved that today with the Teamsters Union,” Overly said in a statement.
“We are thankful for the hard work of those employees and temporary workers who have helped us maintain operations over the last two weeks,” the statement continued, “and we look forward to the long-term future of Sun-Maid that will be built in partnership with our hard-working employees, growers and customers.”
The workers, about 500 of them, had been picketing outside of Sun-Maid’s Kingsburg plant since Sept. 10. The workers were protesting the company’s demand for employees to pay a portion of their health care benefits. Previously the company paid 100 percent of employees’ health benefits.
Workers were also upset over a proposed 50 cent an hour raise, calling it a meager increase.
Overly said previously that Sun-Maid could not continue to give employees a 100 percent company paid health plan.
During the strike, about 20 striking workers crossed the picket line last week. The company also hired more than 100 temporary employees to run multiple shifts at the plant.
To try and encourage Sun-Maid to come back to the bargaining table, a coalition of labor and environmental groups wrote a letter to the Kellogg Company (a Sun-Maid client) urging it to support the workers by putting pressure on Sun-Maid to provide family health insurance.
The striking workers have drawn support from labor leaders and political candidates.
On Tuesday, they were joined by Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers and Maria Elena Durazo, the former executive secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and a candidate for the state Senate. Also joining the picket line was was Teamsters International Union vice president Ron Herrera.