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Kemps workers approve new contract with 'record' wage increases

Employees at Rochester’s Kemps plant voted 82-24 on Sunday to approve a new three-year labor contract with “record” raises to guarantee that the ice cream will keep flowing this summer, said John Chappuis, business agent for Teamsters Local 120.

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Gallon buckets of Kemps ice cream go down the line at the Kemps plant Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Rochester. The plant produces 50,000 gallon buckets of ice cream daily. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)
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ROCHESTER — Employees at Rochester’s Kemps plant approved a new three-year labor contract with “record” raises to guarantee that the ice cream will keep flowing this summer.

The new contract was ratified by the Kemps union members with a vote of 82-24 on Sunday, said John Chappuis, business agent for Teamsters Local 120. About 166 people work at the Kemps ice cream plant at 406 N. Broadway Ave.

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“We got what we wanted. Workers got record wages, better insurance and vacations, so it was a good deal all around,” said Chappius.

The approval of this contract with Kemps’ owner, the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, concluded a bumpy series of negotiations. At one point, the union members voted to approve the possibility of a strike . In the end, an agreement was reached.

“We've never gotten a raise like this before. So that was huge. That was a big sticking point. We also got the ‘master dairy language,’ which is a protection for the workers on grievances. It streamlines the grievance procedure and that was really important to us,” said Chappius.

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"After negotiating a contract for several months, we have reached an agreement with International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 120 at our Rochester, Minn., ice cream plant," said DFA General Manager Kevin Mitchell in a statement. "We remain committed to being the workplace of choice for our 18,000 employees nationwide, and look forward to continuing to serve the needs of our customers and deliver value to our 11,500 dairy farmer-owners throughout the country."

DFA has owned Kemps for 11 years.

Rochester is the main site for Kemps’ ice cream production . In 2019, Kemps said it could produce 86,000 units of ice cream, yogurt or frozen novelties a day, or 40 million units a year. The milk churned to ice cream comes from dairies located within 200 miles of the plant.

The ice cream facility’s history in Rochester dates back to the founding of the Parkin Ice Cream Co. of Rochester in 1911. Kemps Ice Cream Co. of Minneapolis was founded in 1914. Kemps was sold to Crescent Creamery in 1924.

Marigold Dairies of Rochester was founded in 1928 when W.R. Cammack, son of Crescent Creamery co-founder along with two former officers with the Vander Bie Ice Cream Co. of St. Paul, purchased Parkin Ice Cream.

Kemps, Crescent Creamery and Marigold joined forces in 1961. In 1968, the Dutch company NV Wessanen Koninklijke Fabrieken bought Marigold Foods. National Dairy Holdings then purchased Marigold in 2001, and it was renamed as Kemps in 2002.

In 2004, HP Hood purchased Kemps and then sold it to DFA in 2011.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

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Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Jeff at 507-285-7798 or jkiger@postbulletin.com.
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