300 members of The Teamsters Union, Local 120 are at odds with Anderson Erickson Dairy over a the lack of a new contract. The dispute centers on health care costs. The previous contract expired in March, 2012. The current situation and the company’s recent proposal have led to fear and uncertainty among many employees. When asked, “Will workers strike within the next week?” union representative Mike Klootwyk said, “I don’t know. I hope not. (A strike) is a last resort.”
AE wants workers to start paying for part of what they receive as health care coverage. It would be a change from what many employees have had in the past. AE Director of Marketing Kim Peter said, “The competition (in the dairy industry) is tougher and more aggressive than ever. So, our goal in contract negotiations with the Teamsters is to reach a balanced agreement that improves our competitive position, and at the same time, we want to continue to offer AE Dairy employees good jobs, career options and health and pension benefits.”
Under the current agreement, individual employees pay nothing for health insurance. A family plan is available for $69, per month. Under the new proposal, AE offers three options for health insurance coverage. They range from $15 – $35, per month for an individual and $45 – $105, per month for a family plan.
AE wants to frame the argument around the term “total compensation.” That means the combined average wage, pension, and healthcare contribution that union employees receive. Last year the average, according to AE, was $73,002.