Union meatpackers say they've reached a tentative agreement with Hormel Foods Corp. for a new four-year contract, ending months of protracted negotiations and averting a potential strike.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Hormel struck a deal Wednesday evening, though the details behind the deal haven't been publicly released. Union officials said in a statement Thursday they'll share the proposal with workers over the weekend and hold a vote on the deal Monday.
If all goes well, votes will be tallied and shared with workers Monday night.
"We are grateful for the strength our coworkers showed throughout this bargaining process to keep our voices heard," the union said in a statement.
Hormel said in a statement the company is "pleased" the sides reached a deal.
"We appreciate the negotiators on both sides of the table who bargained in good faith to reach this tentative agreement, and we are hopeful the contract will be ratified in the upcoming vote next week," the company said Thursday.
Negotiations for a new four-year contract between workers and Hormel started in July. The current contract expired Sept 10, but both sides agreed to a contract extension that runs until Sunday.
Meatpackers at Hormel's home base in Austin, Minn., as well as plants in Georgia, Wisconsin and Iowa, are pushing for better pay, pensions and insurance costs among other issues. The union's final offer to Hormel last month included $6.25 wage increases by September 2025.
The company's final offer that union members voted down was never made public. It is not clear how close the terms of the tentative agreement are to that offer.
The ongoing wage fight raised the possibility of a work stoppage in Austin, a southern Minnesota community of 25,000 that still carries unpleasant memories of a Hormel strike in the 1980s.
The strike of 1985-1986 ended in defeat for the local union but garnered significant national attention, along with deep rifts in the city. Families stopped speaking to each other and neighbors bore grudges — some to this day.
About 1,000 workers and union supporters marched through downtown Austin in 90-degree weather on Labor Day this year to highlight UFCW's contract demands.
Workers there said it was past time for a substantial raise to keep up with inflation and cost-of-living increases as turnover at Hormel remains high. They said better-paying warehouse jobs can be found in nearby communities, some as high as $28 per hour to start, while meatpackers on average make about $20 per hour.
The contract talks come as Hormel profits — and the prices of bacon, turkey and other commodities — dip as markets adjust to post-pandemic conditions. The company recently lowered its financial forecast for the rest of 2023, estimating its sales will decline as much as 4% or remain flat compared with 2022.
Hormel's net profit over the past four quarters is $877 million.
Star Tribune staff writer Brooks Johnson contributed to this story.