UFCW 655 wins strong first contract for MERS Goodwill workers in Festus

CELEBRATING winning their first UFCW Local 655 contract with MERS Goodwill, employees at the Festus store give a “thumbs up” to show their joy of having the protections and benefits of a union contract. Reveling in their victory are (from left) Logan Butler, Local 655 Director of Organizing Billy Myers, Nicole Robinson holding Bella, 5, Arthur Pope, Stephanie Imboden, Thomas Osterberg, Darren (Willie) Tresner, John Bowman Jr. and Victoria Carpenter. – UFCW Local 655 photo

Festus, MO – With an overwhelming 87 percent vote in favor, workers at the first UFCW Local 655-organized MERS Goodwill store here have accepted their first union contract to cheers and jubilation that a great contract was achieved and a strike was averted, reported Local 655 President David Cook.

After 18 months of negotiations, employees on April 11 voted “NO!” by an overwhelming 93 percent to reject Goodwill’s first contract offer, and authorized strike action. After that, Goodwill negotiators immediately came back to the table with a “new attitude and willingness to be reasonable,” Cook said.

The new two-year agreement, effective May 3, provides a wage boost, improved wage progression scale, new benefits being provided at an earlier date, provides vacations, personal days, funeral leave and, most important, the protections of a union contract to part-time employees for the first time. It gives all employees important grievance rights against unfair discipline or firings –– something that was crucial in the talks, Cook stressed.

The contract has two unique wage protection clauses:

  1. If Goodwill gives its non-union store employees a raise greater than the percentage negotiated for Local 655’s new members, the unionized Festus workers will also get the additional pay.
  2. To compensate for the minimal cost of union dues, employees will get an additional 20 cents an hour.

The contract represents a major victory as this is the first of MERS Goodwill’s 24 stores in the St. Louis region to be unionized.

“We especially want to thank our brothers and sisters throughout the Labor Movement who supported our newest members by withholding donations of both goods and money in an effort to send Goodwill a strong message,” Cook said.

“Without the Labor community’s support, making it clear that Labor families were watching the outcome of this campaign, we could have not won this victory for members who really needed, and deserve, to have a union. Because of that support, we have an even stronger union family.”


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