New and brighter futures for cannery workers

More than 4,000 members who work in the cannery industry across the Central Valley ratified their new collective bargaining agreements in July.

Stanislaus Foods and Con Agra Brands, two national industry leaders in tomato processing, were part of the three-year Master Agreement. The 2,400 members at those two facilities agreed to a contract that also contains historic wage and benefit increases. The Master Agreement also covers Local 856 members in San Joaquin County and several other locations in Northern California.

However, after more than 50 years, Modesto’s Del Monte Foods left the multi-employer group’s master contract. Local 948’s leadership made it clear to Del Monte that leaving the group would not affect the members’ demands for a fair contract equal to or above the industry standard. When the dust cleared, Local 948’s membership at Del Monte ratified a historic five-year agreement by 204-16 that had significant wage increases, CPI increases, and additional paid vacation regardless of seniority; it also rolled back full-time members’ out-of-pocket health and welfare costs to zero, and it added retiree health insurance for the first time.

The members at all of these facilities are generally line operators, forklift drivers, warehouse workers, or maintenance workers.

Fruit needs cans to go to market, and members who work at Sonoco Can Mfg. in Oakdale ratified their new agreement as well. This contract protects their Health and Welfare, increases the pension contribution, and provides the largest wage increases in memory at this facility. The Oakdale can plant, formerly Ball Metals, was purchased by Sonoco earlier this year.

“All our staff worked hard and did a great job in these negotiations,” said Local 948 Secretary-Treasurer Luis Diaz, who chaired most of the bargaining. Diaz thanked the Rank and file members who participated as committee members. “Having the rank and filers at the table is a tremendous resource. Nobody knows the issues at the various facilities better than the leaders on the shop floor and in the trucks,” Diaz added.