On the day marking an 8-hour workday, Kemps workers reject latest offer
Workers rejected the latest proposed contract in a 135-to-1 vote Sunday.
ROCHESTER — Workers at a Rochester ice cream maker moved closer to a strike Sunday.
All but one of 136 members of the Teamsters Local 120 representing workers at Kemps ice cream plant voted against management’s latest contract offer in a vote Sunday, said John Chappuis, the union’s business agent.
The union, which represents about 150 to 200 of the workers, and management have been in ongoing negotiations with Kemps owner the Dairy Farmers of America .
A strike at the plant at 406 Broadway Ave. North could come as early as this week, Chappuis said.
The plant is Kemps’ main site for ice cream production.
The vote fittingly came on International Workers Day. The first day of May marks the anniversary of a nationwide labor strike May 1, 1886, to demand an eight-hour workday.
Chappuis said the union and management will continue to negotiate.
“But if they don’t respond very quickly, we’re going on strike,” he said, adding that Kemps workers and union officials spent some time making signs for the potential strike.
Chappuis attended a May Day labor rally and march Sunday afternoon in downtown Rochester. Dozens of workers from multiple unions met and marched. The bulk of the union representatives were from Unite Here Local 17. The Minneapolis-based organization represents workers at Kahler Hospitality Group’s downtown Rochester hotels. The group’s three-year labor agreement expired in December 2021 .
Representatives from Local 17 said they wanted to rally to put public pressure on KHG to reinstate overtime pay, sick time and other work amenities.
“This is our way of letting the community know what kind of battle we’re in,” said Leah Riley, a banquet server who has worked at the Kahler hotel for more than 20 years.
Riley said the union had filed several complaints against KHG with the National Labor Relations Board for changes in pay. The NRLB found that the hotels had acted inappropriately when changing salaries in 2016 and owed many employees back pay. Some employees at the event said they had yet to receive any of that back pay.
Mike Vale, a 44-year employee with Kahler and Local 17 member, said he wanted a contract that would be a win for all sides.
“The union will make them successful like they were before,” he said. “It will be union employees who take it back to that success if it gets back there.”
Marchers went from Central Park in downtown Rochester, marched past the Kahler Inn and Suites on their way to the Peace Plaza before returning to the park.
Andy Smith, co-owner of Gray Duck Theater & Coffee House and DFL candidate for Rochester’s seat 25B in the Minnesota House and Aleta Borrud, candidate for state Senate seat 24, both attended the rally and expressed their support for the Local 17 members.