Teamster production workers and lab technicians who work at Darigold participated in “just practicing” picketing actions on Thursday at the company’s facilities in Issaquah and Seattle. Workers were protesting the company’s refusal to bargain in good faith.
“Darigold is performing well financially, but instead of negotiating fairly and respecting the work that its employees perform, the company appears intent on provoking a strike, or repeating the history of its bitter lockout ten years ago,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.
In 2003, Darigold locked out approximately 200 production and distribution workers from its Seattle and Issaquah processing plants for 9 months.
“It feels like 2003 all over again,” said Laury Korpinen, a 31-year production worker at Darigold’s milk processing facility on Rainier Avenue in Seattle.
Bargaining between the union and the company began in April and continued throughout the summer, but talks stalled over Darigold’s insistence on eliminating workers’ job security and significantly increasing the amount workers pay for their health care. On August 18, the workers voted 130-1 to authorize a strike.
“They want to undermine our job security and our health care,” said Henning Jenson, a 25-year employee. “Nobody wants to strike, but we will stand our ground and do what we need to do to protect our jobs.”
Today, at the Issaquah plant, a top level manager was stationed across the street from picketing workers for over an hour, which not only intimidated picketing workers, but also violated federal labor law.
“Darigold engaged in illegal surveillance of union members exercising their right to participate in informational picketing that is protected under federal law,” Thompson said. “We will be filing Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company.”
The union and the company will be in federal mediation on Monday, September 9. No other bargaining dates are currently scheduled.
Darigold is owned by over 700 members of the Northwest Dairy Association. Workers at the Issaquah plant make butter, sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese, while workers in Seattle process hundreds of thousands of pounds of milk every year, supplying Costco and Walmart stores, as well as many Washington schools. The company’s annual sales are over $2.0 billion.
Teamsters Local 117 represents 220 production workers and lab technicians at the company’s Seattle and Issaquah plants and approximately 16,000 total workers across Washington State.