Less than a year after the members of Local 75 ratified a five-year agreement, Heinz started to change ownership. On February 14, 2013, Heinz agreed to be purchased by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital. On March 25, 2015, Kraft announced its merger with Heinz. The merger was completed on July 2, 2015. The resulting Kraft Heinz Company is the fifth largest food company in the world.
New ownership resulted in many changes in the Company’s flagship ketchup manufacturing plant in Fremont, Ohio. The Company implemented changes in the plant that effected the operation, and in some cases, working conditions in the plant. Members in the facility filed grievances to defend their contract. Local 75 processed several of these grievances to arbitration. This was important to the 2017 bargaining process because it demonstrated to the Company that the members were serious about the terms of their contract and were willing to fight to maintain the conditions of the contract!
In preparation for negotiations, Local 75 hosted a meeting with all UFCW Locals which represent Heinz members and International representatives to discuss upcoming bargaining and bargaining goals. Local 75 also reached out to Local 431 which represents a similar plant in Muscatine, Iowa and expired on the same day as our Fremont plant.
The Bargaining committee developed a comprehensive proposal and began bargaining with the Company during the end of January. After several bargaining sessions and two contract extensions, a Tentative Agreement was reached on April 12. The proposed agreement maintains that the members of Local 75 will enjoy the best contract conditions and health care in the Kraft Heinz Company. The new Agreement will expire on October 27, 2022.
Some of the highlights to the Agreement are:
- Maintained cost free health benefits and offers many new plan options
- Cost free retiree health care was protected for members hired before 2020 and 70 members who would have had to pay 50% for this retiree health care were moved to cost free
- A 17.5% wage increase over term of the agreement
- Working conditions were maintained
Preparation and knowledge of health care and pension were important to the success if this agreement. Equally important was the bargaining committee members staying focused on the big issues and their determination to achieve their goals.