UNION CITY (CBS SF) — About 175 employees at the American Licorice Company plant in Union City went on strike Monday as a result of a labor dispute over health care, pensions and wages, a union official said.
Donna Scarano of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 125 said contract talks began in August, when the previous labor agreement expired, but talks have broken down despite the efforts of federal mediators.
Scarano said employees voted to go on strike at the end of October but agreed to “give the company another chance” with additional talks in November in hopes of avoiding a strike.
However, those negotiations also were unproductive and employees finally decided to go on strike Monday, she said.
American Licorice spokesman Michael Kelly said in a statement that, “The company’s final proposal to our associates included a pay raise, an improved retirement benefit, and comprehensive health insurance for associates and their families.”
Kelly said, “We have a long-standing and positive relationship with our associates and despite their rejection of our final offer, we’re optimistic that everyone will return to work and the situation will be resolved.”
Scarano said the biggest stumbling block in labor negotiations is health care costs.
She said employees have accepted only minimal pay raises in recent years in return for the company paying all the costs of their health care plan.
Scarano said American Licorice now wants employees to pay $1,500 a year for a health care plan for an individual and $3,000 a year for a family.
She said the company’s employees “make a good product” and are disappointed that an agreement hasn’t been reached so far.
Most of the company’s employees at the Union City plant have worked there for a long time, Scarano said.
She said they work in three shifts around the clock.
Scarano said American Licorice has its headquarters in Bend, Ore., and has another plant in La Porte, Ind.
According to the company’s website, American Licorice’s first factory began in Chicago in 1914 and the company began operations on the West Coast in San Francisco in 1925.
The company moved into a new production facility in Union City in 1970, according to the website.
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)