UFCW 655 members reject first Goodwill contract, authorize strike

93% voted to reject the offer, but pickets did not immediately go up; talks to resume April 16

Festus, MO – Picket lines at the MERS Goodwill here did not immediately materialize Monday, April 12, after employees, members of UFCW Local 655, on Sunday rejected the company’s “final and best” offer and authorized strike action by an overwhelming 93 percent vote, Local 655 President David Cook said immediately following the vote.

In announcing the resounding rejection, Cook cited the workers’ overwhelming disdain for Goodwill’s unacceptable wage and benefits offer.

The Festus store, with some 20 employees, is the first of the 24 Goodwill stores in the St. Louis region to be unionized. Contract talks have been under way for 18 months.

In what the union considered “retribution” for the workers joining Local 655, last January Goodwill withheld a wage increase from its Festus employees that was paid to all the workers in its other stores. Citing this as an example of Goodwill not bargaining in good faith, Local 655 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Those charges are still pending.

“No one ever wants to strike,” said Cook. “But it is the final tool in the workers’ arsenal when they are fighting for the better life they have earned through their hard work. While MERS Goodwill offers six-figure bonuses to their executives, they pay poverty wages to their employees. Goodwill is supposed to be a charitable company whose mission statement is ‘changing lives through the power of work,’ but their proposals in this contract, and dragging out negotiations for over 18 months, clearly show they aren’t living up to their words. Their employees felt it was time to hold them accountable.”

Picket lines have not yet gone up as negotiations were scheduled to resume Friday, April 16.

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