.

Update: American Licorice Workers on Strike Over Health Benefits

Workers have been on strike since midnight Monday.

Updated Dec. 5., 11:28 a.m.

About 175 employees are on strike to protest what they say are unfair health benefits.

The company, which has three factories in the United States, employs 178 people at its Union City location, which is where they make all of their popular Red Vines candies, according to employees.

Workers lined up at midnight on Monday and said they’ve been overworked and understaffed for the last several years and that the company recently paid millions for new machinery while laying off more than 20 employees.

According to Rene Castillo, vice president of the Bakery Workers Union Local 125, American Licorice’s contract offer includes a new health care plan that would institute co-pays and deductibles and a one-time $10,000 retirement bonus in place of a pension. The company is also offering a 30-cent increase in hourly pay, but workers are demanding a 50-cent raise.

“They say they have no money to give us a raise, but the machine cost $9 million,” said Victor Arrescurrenaga, a 57-year-old maintenance mechanic who’s worked for the company for 23 years. “They’re making profit and laying off people, that’s why we’re requesting more money.”

Signs of discontent surfaced on Patch last week when we posted a feature video showing how the candy is made.

included complaints about being understaffed, hiring of temp workers and new health care co-pays.

Company spokesman Michael Kelly responded on Patch that the company offered a contract that includes payment of 100 percent health premiums and a wage increase worth about 5 percent over the three years of the contract. The two sides have been negotiating since August.

Kelly said the terms were “unheard of in the current economic climate where many employers are reducing wages or going out of business altogether.”

Castillo, a former employee of the company for 21 years, said there haven’t been any major labor issues until now. He said the company’s wages are “decent,” ranging from $14 to $21 an hour, and that their primary concern is health care.

"For many years we've had a very good health plan. The plan they're offering us, we don't want it," said Roberto Hurtado, 40, an American Licorice employee of 20 years.

Hurtado began picketing at 2 a.m. Monday, along with dozens of other employees.

Workers will remain on strike as long as it takes for management to agree with their terms, Castillo said.

“Whenever they call us to negotiate, we’re ready to negotiate,” Castillo said.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, American Licorice said their offer to employees was final.

"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. 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," the statement said.

Drea December 08, 2011 at 08:25 AM
I'm so offended by such ignorant comment some people make. My mother came to this country to make a better life for herself. She's been working for this company for over 28 years and still gets paid around $16/hr and she packs her candy by hand!!! Even after the company paid millions for new machinery! They over work her and schedule mandatory over time and masseuse Saturday work. Of course u might think "well who wouldn't want money" but definitely not under these circumstances. Even with a decent health insurance, co pay is $30 and on top of that, prescriptions are not cheap. Maybe if they didn't over work everyone there, they wouldn't do that. Maybe they should pay more the $16-20/hr and maybe they can afford their own health insurance. Everyone that works there aren't young, they are all middle aged people with families. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly... A favor for a favor? Mandatory over time for good health insurance. Not too much to ask for. And for those of you who don't agree and think that the employees are being selfish, how about u go ahead and work there and see for yourself.
Nadja Adolf December 08, 2011 at 08:40 AM
I lived in Bellingham, WA for a while. The local hospital was kept busy with Canadians who had supplemental insurance that allowed them to come to the US if their treatment in Canada was delayed for a certain length of time or denied. A Canadian with a broken ankle can wait days for treatment.
Tim December 08, 2011 at 03:48 PM
The ignorance is in your comment that you think your mother is "owed" something... If this company is so bad, why the hell did she stay there for 28 years? I'm guessing that the pay was pretty good relative to her skill set. If it's not so much anymore, why can't she leave? Does American Licorice have a gun to her head? The bottom line is health care costs are going up astronomically and will with or without Obamacare. They've been going up much faster than GP growth for years. Companies cannot afford to give employees the Cadillac plans they were used to. As for more pay, if they don't like it seek employment elsewhere. My guess is that with 10% unemployment there are many others that would line up for her job. My guess is that you don't need a Ph.D. do pack candy so finding replacements wouldn't be very difficult. And for the record, I have full time employment and I do not get health insurance through my employer. I purchase it on my own.
RICHARD HUNTER December 08, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Tim and the rest of the people not wearing the shoes of the licorice workers need to stop being so close minded.Dont know if you realize how expensive it is to live in the bay area?Sure the guy that lives in Dixon Ca would love to make 20 dollars an hour I myself make 43 dollars an hour and still struggle hear in the bay area.And thanks to my union!My company will make billions in profit this year and to date I am working without a contract!Seams they dont agree with the healthcare premiums hello none of us do we are all bieng raped by companys like blue shield of ca!We just want to all be healthy along with our familys so we dont miss work so companys like American Licorice can continue to put out the best damn product out there!I buy nothing else I support local buisness and anyone that does buisness with my employer.American Licorice does both!I support them but I am smart enough TIM to realize without happy healthy fair payed employees your buisness wont last long or not exist at all! We all want the strike to end so AML CO can prosper in Union City for another 50 plus years.Again I will not cross the strike lines anyone who does is a scab!Its called sollidarity and I respect it.Yes unions do badd but the majority is good.With it I live a good life and so does my employer.We will a prosper and go far if we all just work together for whats best for everyone!
Tim December 08, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Richard, you seem (not seam) to have a misunderstanding of our health care system and why costs are going up. Blue shield is not raping anyone. They have a profit margin of about 2%. Compare that to Apple or Microsoft. The fact is that costs are skyrocketing because of many factors such as unreasonable state mandates about what must be covered (ie sex changes) malpractice costs, etc. The Democrats are in bed with the trial lawyers and wouldn't allow tort reform in Obamacare. There are other factors as well but you aren't being raped by Blue shield, you're being raped by, as usual, bad government policies. I'm not being closed minded about this labor dispute. I understand there are people on both sides and workers that are suffering on strike without income at this moment. There are also people on the other side trying to keep a business functioning in this economic climate. 16-20 an hour for unskilled labor doesn't sound bad to me. I only made 15 an hour in my first year working and with a college degree. I'm not complaining about it. I understand that no one owes me anything and I have to work for what I want in life. It's time these people realize that too.
Albert Rubio December 09, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Thanks for your reply Gina. By socialism I mean the basic definition, state ownership of the means of production. >"Free enterprise,... But this is balanced by effective government regulation and laws that ensure fair competition, economic justice,environmental stewardship, and worker's rights; " 1. What kind of inequality needs to be "balanced"? does this mean that you think it is ethical to take away from some by force in order to give to others? Bastiat called this legalizing theft: “See if the law takes from some persons, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” "Man can meet his needs only by continuous work and mental application to natural resources. This process is the origin of property. But man may also live by seizing and consuming the products of others. This process is the origin of plunder. So, when plunder is organized by law for profit, the plundered classes try to join in the law making business. They may want to stop legalized plunder or they may want to share in it. Society pays a great price when law is used for the privilege of plunder." - Frederick Bastiat 2. what is fair competition? economic justice? workers rights? What is needed beyond the laws protecting people from violence and property from theft and damage?
Albert Rubio December 09, 2011 at 03:15 AM
>people ... stop being so close minded. Are people 'closed minded' because you disagree with them? If someone insists that the issue be submitted to reason and economic logic and not personal feelings, is this close minded? >Dont know if you realize how expensive it is to live in the bay area? Why would you think otherwise? We all live here right? >We just want to all be healthy along with our familys... Our wants are unlimited. Resources are not. You forget that every 'thing' we want that is a product or service can never come for free. This is Economics. >I am smart enough TIM to realize without happy healthy fair payed employees your buisness wont last long Are you smart enough to determine what is 'fair pay'? The notion does not exist. It is unrealizeable, mere moral sentiment and wishing, and contradictory to an understanding of market operation. >anyone who [crosses the union line] is a scab! What's wrong with a 'scab'? why do you discriminate against someone who is willing to work? He shames the union because he is willing to work for the terms the union is not. >We will a prosper and go far if we all just work together for whats best for everyone! We are poorer by your policies. Are your ideas best for that poor 'scab' who is willing to work or the employer willing to hire? You advocate a monopoly of labor. How does this serve everyone else? you are being closed minded. It only serves group interests against the rest of society.
Albert Rubio December 09, 2011 at 03:48 AM
> Those taking the companies side tend to be ... No one is taking the companies side. This is a complete misunderstanding. The divide is between: Liberalism = classical liberalism = libertarianism = the interest of all = capitalism = free market = indiviual rights = liberty = open society = private property = peace = prosperity. All else is anti-liberal = group interests = state central planning = state market regulations leading reduced production and black markets = state intervention = state ownership of the means of production = the individual subordinated to the state/society = socialism = Marxism = regulated society = domestic conflict = international conflict. >I'm sure given the choice ... employees would switch to the better health plan the union workers have now. Everyone Everywhere is Always ready to switch to products better, cheaper, or better AND cheaper. This does not mean they would perfer a Union. This is a fallacy. >if you can't afford to decently compensate your production employees This sounds so righteous but the real problem is that you nor the union nor the employer can ever decide what is 'decent.' The market decides, everyone producing, buying and selling. It is each individual, not the group interest of the Union. This is where all the rhetoric of the union and their supporters comes crashing down. The Union does not have nor has ever had the interest of society.
Barney Google December 09, 2011 at 02:02 PM
I totaly agree. A lot of people think that companies are in business to supply them with a job. Much less make a profit. This is a real world and there are no nice guys out there . No one will start a business and hire anybody without some kind of reward.
Zoneil Maharaj December 09, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Hey folks, the American Licorice workers are now on day five of their strike and temp workers have been brought in. We followed up with them for an updated story. Read the new story here: http://patch.com/A-ptQl The American Licorice Company also released a new statement with the full details of the offer to its employees. You can see that here: http://patch.com/A-ptN5
Albert Rubio December 10, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Gina, "Capitalism and socialism are two distinct patterns of social organization. Private control of the means of production and public control are contradictory notions and not merely contrary notions. There is no such thing as a mixed economy, a system that would stand midway between capitalism and socialism. Those advocating what is erroneously believed to be a middle-of-the-road solution do not recommend a compromise between capitalism and socialism, but a third pattern which has its own particular features and must be judged according to its own merits. This third system that the economists call interventionism does not combine, as its champions claim, some of the features of capitalism with some of socialism. It is something entirely different from each of them." -Ludwig von Mises, Economist
Fixit December 11, 2011 at 12:11 AM
I work at American Licorice and I am on strike over the health benifit issue. Let the truth be known on our struggles. We have in the past forgone our raises to maintain our current health benifits. The raises that are offered doesnt amount to a tank of gas for the month. The companies spokesman whom I never heard of until now quotes 100% of paid premium. That is only 1/3 of the truth. We are fighting because we know that on the next contract it would be partial paid premiums where the employee will pay towards the premium. If we allow the company to impliment this heath care package, it opens the door wider for them to change as they see fit for profit. You are seeing corporate greed in action. If it wasnt for the union that supports us workers there, most of the workers would have been out the door just because this fellow looked or talked to one of the manager's mistress.
Tim December 11, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Corporate greed, eh? Tell me, what is American Licorice's profit margin? I honestly don't know, but I'd like to know so we can all see how "greedy" they are. If not for the union you'd be out the door? Really? Because I know people out of work that would jump on board right now for $16 an hour WITHOUT the generous health care and retirement benefit. You aren't comprehending how much health care costs are increasing. They are increasing (despite Obama's please that his health care law would lower premiums) at an astronomical rate. If American Licorice's growth isn't keeping pace with that then how can they possibly afford to continue your Cadillac health plan? A 30 co-pay is NOT unreasonable and for 2012 they aren't asking you to pay a dime. This gives you plenty of time to put a little away each paycheck for 2013 when you'll pay a little more. Keep it up though because I can already see your strike is beginning to resemble an Occupy protest and we all know how popular those have become.
Albert Rubio December 11, 2011 at 07:45 AM
If you can get a better deal then fine. No one is arguing against this. But please tell me what is the difference if you get a better deal here or at another company? There is no difference really. That is competition. We also feel you are not understanding the economic reality around you. But I have to say, All the union talk you make is just weird to the majority of us (90% now) who don't belong to any union. It does not resonate. The outside world is not anything like the union would have you believe. And that bit about the mistress is strange too. How many mistresses can one manager have?
Nadja Adolf December 11, 2011 at 10:04 AM
In the last few years health care costs have gone up 35%, and taxes have gone up 33%. One reason companies are cutting back on health care plans is that the ObamaCare bill penalizes employers who provide plans that exceed the federal minimum. So, good luck with getting your copay reduced - it isn't likely to happen because the company will have to pay for these things once for you and once to the taxman.
Nadja Adolf December 11, 2011 at 10:06 AM
In the last few years health care costs have gone up 35%, and taxes have gone up 33%. One reason companies are cutting back on health care plans is that the ObamaCare bill penalizes employers who provide plans that exceed the federal minimum. So, good luck with getting your copay reduced - it isn't likely to happen because the company will have to pay for these things once for you and once to the taxman. A lot of companies are cutting back health care plans or even planning on eliminating them since it will be cheaper to just pay the Obama Care fee for not insuring the workers than to provide plans and then risk being taxed if the program is "overgenerous." Of course federal elected officials, and so on are exempt from these problems.
Michael December 15, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Victor Arrescurrengana crossed the line and turned his back on his union brothers and sisters. Along with Luis Guevarra. They have renounced their union membership and are now on unfriendly terms with BCTGM Local 125. They lasted only six days on the picket line. When the factory resumes to normal production, those two have left themselves wide open to the management at ALC whom in their eyes see these two as weak links in the maintenance department and will now have free will to release them of their employment knowing that they will not have union representation. Good luck gentlemen. I assure you that you will not enjoy the rest of your time at ALC
Timothy Swenson December 15, 2011 at 11:20 PM
That was mean spirited and very uncalled for. Nothing like treating your fellow man with kindness this holiday season.
Michael December 15, 2011 at 11:53 PM
That was actually some of the kinder words that were overheard. Victor was featured in this article and also interviewed on a local television station.
Tim December 16, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Typical union thug tactics. I commend Victor for looking out for his family and returning to work. The unions are incredibly out of touch with the economic reality we live in and its no wonder that right to work states are better off fiscally than the unionized states.
Tim December 16, 2011 at 04:20 AM
I just got back from Costco and they had tubs of Red Vines! I thought of Michael here and I bough two of them :)
Albert Rubio December 16, 2011 at 07:42 AM
>" turned his back on his union brothers and sisters. ... They have renounced their union membership" brothers and sisters? This is cult-like language. It is self-centered, moralistic (subjectively) and manipulative (attempting to foster guilt). That kind of living would drive me to insanity or deep depression.
Jessica December 16, 2011 at 05:08 PM
@Michael- How do you know that both Victor and Luis are "weak links"?
AnitaJ December 16, 2011 at 10:07 PM
From what I have read, Victor and Luis must be very brave souls who have looked through all the BS spouted off by the union bosses and realized the medical insurance offered by the company is good for them and their families. If you read the actual offer from the licorice company printed in the Union City Patch, their medical plan offer is extremely generous and most people in this area would die for such a plan.
anita December 16, 2011 at 10:25 PM
From what I have read, Victor and Luis must be very brave souls who have looked through all the BS spouted off by the union bosses and realized the medical insurance offered by the company is good for them and their families. If you read the actual offer from the licorice company printed in the Union City Patch, their medical plan offer is extremely generous and most people in this area would die for such a plan.
XiolaBlue December 18, 2011 at 05:21 AM
Multi million dollar company? I've never even heard of Redvines- must be a west coast thing. I think these people think they work for this huge company when in all actuality this place is small potatoes. Let's hope the union doesn't force another company out of business... I guess forcing the big three to fall wasn't enough.
Mary Jane January 09, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Go ahead, they wont taste very good...
Mary Jane January 09, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Health care is going up because of pharmaceutical companies and hospital costs. Also, insurance companies speculate on costs, and they then fluctuate costs when they deem necessary. Maybe less fox news and more reading is the prescription of the day.
Mary Jane January 09, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I believe it is Jesus Christ that said we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God. Is Christianity a cult too? I
Albert Rubio January 10, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Mary Jane, >"Health care is going up because of pharmaceutical companies and hospital costs. Also, insurance companies speculate on costs, and they then fluctuate costs when they deem necessary. Maybe less fox news and more reading is the prescription of the day." Your statement amounts to "Health care is going up because Health care is going up." costs are up IMO mostly because added costs of constant government intervention and regulation. It is going to get much worse with the new interventions of the current administration. BTW, Bringing up Fox News is never a a good argument. It just expresses a bias without an argument supporting it. (I am not defending FOX) >I believe it is Jesus Christ that said we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God. Is Christianity a cult too? Yes, in the eyes of god which has nothing to do with a workers Union. Christianity can be a cult in some cases. There are some honest Christians but overall I think it is a product of the ancient mind and very different from the modern mind.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something