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Strike averted: JBS, UFCW 1161 ratify contract

WORTHINGTON — One month after unionized employees at the JBS pork processing facility in Worthington voted to authorize a strike, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1161 announced late Thursday it had reached an agreement with JBS.

The newly ratified union contract calls for a 12.8 percent wage increase over the life of the five-year agreement and retroactive pay for all hours worked since the previous contract expired on June 30, 2013.

In addition, union workers at the Worthington facility retain affordable health care with only minor plan changes. The parties also agreed to the establishment of a low-cost health care clinic in Worthington that provides flexible, easily accessible healthcare to JBS employees with no cost for primary care such as check-ups, minor procedures, lab work and some treatments. Low-cost prescriptions and immunizations are also included.

Unionized employees will retain their current 401k program in the new contract, retain double time pay for Sunday work and time-and-a-half-pay on the sixth consecutive day worked. They will also get improved paid leave for the death of a loved one.

Details of the ratified contract were spelled out in a press release issued by UFCW Local 1161.

“This is a great agreement, not only for JBS workers but the entire Worthington community,” Local 1161 President Mike Potter said in the release.

“This contract means that more than $23 million will be pumped into the local economy over the next five years,” he added. “Much of our time at the bargaining table was spent working to protect affordable, quality healthcare. Thanks to the unity of the union membership, and the solidarity shown to us by other UFCW local unions around the country, we were able to hammer out an agreement that keeps workers healthy at a cost that doesn’t threaten the family budget or the company’s ability to grow and make a profit.

“Negotiations were tough, but ultimately, this agreement shows that sticking together in a union means your voice is heard and respected at work.”

Brad Hellinga, Vice President and General Manager of Worthington’s JBS facility, also issued a statement on the contract’s ratification.

“JBS is pleased to confirm that labor negotiations with UFCW Local 1161 at the pork production facility in Worthington … have successfully concluded,” Hellinga said. “The agreement provides certainty to JBS team members and ensures that JBS Worthington will continue to produce high quality pork products loved by consumers around the world. The agreement, a result of continued good-faith negotiations between both parties, will benefit our team members, our producer partners and the Worthington, MN, community. We thank UFCW for their continued support and partnership throughout this process.”

The ratified contract affects approximately 1,800 employees at JBS in Worthington.

The UFCW represents JBS workers at additional locations across the country. Workers are currently at the bargaining table in Greeley, Colo.,; Souderton, Pa.,; Grand Island, Neb.,; and Louisville, Ky. Employees at the JBS facility in Omaha, Neb., will begin negotiations on their contract soon, according to the UFCW.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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