Cargill Case Ready Bargaining: Speaking Truth to Power

Yesterday, representatives of your Union joined with your coworkers in continuing to push Cargill for a better deal for Case Ready employees.

President Hesse, Labour Relations Officer Teresa Ludwig and Director Ricardo de Menezes join your Cargill Case Ready Bargaining Committee.

Cargill is a giant corporation. If you use Google, you will find lots of stuff about their size and power on the Internet. WikiPedia says they’re the largest privately-owned company in the United States, and one of the largest in the world, with gross revenues of over $150 billion in 2022. It last reported net profit earnings in 2021 of just below $500 billion. They employ over 160,000 employees in 66 countries.

They are very big and they are very powerful.

Yesterday, Union President Thomas Hesse joined the bargaining Committee to speak to Cargill’s representatives. Cargill’s chief spokesperson is a lawyer, but she is accompanied by a Cargill official from the United States, the Plant Manager Nathalie and others. President Hesse said it was important to “speak truth to power.”

Cargill is certainly powerful. What is the truth?

The truth is simple. Cargill employees do incredibly difficult and physically demanding work. It appears as though inflation and the affordability crisis have become deeply entrenched, especially in Alberta.

Rents have skyrocketed. Insurance premiums are through the roof. Mortgage rates are high. Electric and utility bills cannot be managed. Grocery prices make it virtually impossible to feed your family and most certainly, make it profoundly difficult to eat healthy food. There is an incredible strain on your mental health.

There is another truth. Cargill is a very, very wealthy company than can afford to treat its workers better. Also, Cargill has a terrible reputation because of their failure to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

And there is more truth to be told. Cargill Case Ready employees feel a lot of anxiety because they do not enjoy guaranteed hours in their work week. Even core senior employees do not enjoy a certainty of income from week to week, as there can be changes and reductions in their hours of work. It is completely unfair and unreasonable that Cargill can’t find a way to provide certainty to the majority of their workers.

Frankly, it is a betrayal. Employees are required to work hard and be loyal as a condition of their employment. That is the promise employees make. Why can’t Cargill promise their employees basic job security?

The truth is that there is a real unfairness and betrayal at Cargill Case Ready that the employer needs to fix. And the situation feels worse and worse as time passes, as the affordability crisis just won’t go away, and every hour of missed work can mean the difference in whether or not you pay your bills.

President Hesse asked Cargill to respect its employees and show empathy. It is inconceivable that a company as large and sophisticated as Cargill can’t figure out that a guarantee of hours is a reasonable and necessary element and requirement of working at Case Ready.

Cargill employees are between a rock and a hard place. No-one wants to go on strike, as doing so could be economically difficult. On the other hand, as the affordability crisis hardens, it is more necessary than ever to fight back. Your Union wants to bring a sense of hope to your future.

Is that what Cargill’s hope is as well? UFCW Local 401 calls upon Cargill to show leadership, and to ensure that there are new protections in the Union contract to speak to these difficult times.

If Cargill cares about their employees, they will bend on this issue. Unfortunately, it is important to prepare for a strike. We cannot be certain that Cargill will bend or be reasonable without an employee show of strength. A strike could convince them to bend. It may not. As we have said, Cargill is very big and powerful.

But Local 401 and its Bargaining Committee, no matter what happens, will always speak truth to power.

Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart recalls the incredible energy that Cargill Case Ready employees demonstrated at our recent event in front of the plant. “We didn’t just hand out hardhat stickers,” said Treasurer Stewart. “We talked to workers. There is a reason that they rejected Cargill’s last bargaining position by a 92% margin. The Cargill company offer just wasn’t enough in these hard times. Cargill is prospering, workers just want to survive.”

We spoke with the members of the Bargaining Committee at yesterday’s session. Here’s what they told us about why they chose to be a part of this process.

Rajwinder Deol
Production Leader

“Everyone wants a raise in wages, and a guarantee of hours.”
Gurpreet Gill
Shipping Leader

“We need to get a better deal.”
Kyle Gundy
Maintenance Leader & Electrician

“Everybody deserves a livable wage. We’re here to get that for ourselves.”
Rosalina Layacan

“We need to deliver more hours for our members.”
Glendon Charles Sigurdson

“I want to see everybody get a fair deal.”