More than three months after walking out, the 300-plus workers at Mott’s upstate New York applesauce plant declared victory after ratifying a new contract on September 13. The workers will return to work on Monday, September 20, on what would have been the 121st day of the strike.
The members of the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) Local 220 walked out on May 23 after earlier rejecting a concessions-laden contract from Mott’s, a subsidiary of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group food and drink conglomerate which made a $550 million profit in last year.
The new contract restores wage levels and continues the defined-benefit pension plan. The workers’ contract at the Williamson, N.Y., plant expired April 16 and even as Dr. Pepper Snapple Group CEO Larry Young earned $6.5 million last year, the company demanded a $1.50 per hour wage cut for all workers, a pension freeze for current employees and elimination of a pension for future employees, decreased employer contributions to the company’s 401(k) retirement plan and increased employee contributions toward health care premiums and co-pays.
The striking workers received strong support from union leaders and elected officials including AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, New York State AFL-CIO president Denis Hughes, presidents of numerous other unions, the entire New York State Democratic congressional delegation, elected officials in New York, members of the Canadian Parliament, and several global unions and union federations.
Says RWDSU president Stuart Applebaum: “Not a day went by without people stopping by to drop off a financial or food donation for the strike fund. The international, national and local community supported us thoroughly, and the RWDSU and Local 220 members want to share their thanks. The RWDSU members at Mott’s have a message for working people everywhere: Stand up for what you believe in, and stay united.”