Routh workers OK contract

MARGARETTA TWP. J.H. Routh Packing workers will not strike. Workers at the plant voted Friday to approve the company's
May 24, 2010



J.H. Routh Packing workers will not strike.

Workers at the plant voted Friday to approve the company's contract proposal, said Jill Cashin, spokeswoman for the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union.

Voting took place Friday and ended at 5 p.m.

Workers were presented with information about the new proposal Thursday. If workers had rejected the offer, a strike would have taken place today).

One worker turned in his ballot voting against the proposal, which he said contained no changes from the previously rejected offers.

"I can't say I'm happy with it," he said, adding that he is looking for a new job. "It's supposed to be a union. We're supposed to stick together. That letter scared some people."

A two-page letter from Thomas Routh, president and chief executive officer of the meat packing company, was sent to workers Tuesday telling them a strike could spell a permanent shutdown of the West Bogart Road plant.

The letter -- considered by some to be an ultimatum and scare tactic -- urged workers to reconsider their votes rejecting the proposal that was given to them last week.

Another man, who has worked for the company for about 15 years, said the only change in the contract was its date.

"Instead of going forward, they went backward," he said.

The worker, who did not want to be identified for this story, called the local union on Friday to find out the final vote and was only told that the contract was approved.

He said two-thirds of the union had to reject the offer for a strike to take place. He said he believes half the workers voted to accept the contract.

"What's sad is probably half of them won't be there in a year anyhow," he said.

The original contract, dated May 10, proposed freezing pay for four years and requiring workers to pay for a portion of their health insurance costs, among other things. Workers overwhelmingly voted to reject the offer at that time.

Another long-time Routh employee said the initial offer would have cut his income by $3,500 a year due to the proposed contract's concessions.

The only difference in this contract, some workers said, was that company officials renegotiated the wage freeze, stating that workers can receive a raise in three years depending on how well the company is doing.

"I'm angry because we will have to work the next three years for the same amount," said one of the veteran employee, adding that he doesn't believe company officials will do so. "They're not guaranteeing us anything."