A Darigold dairy worker practices picketing as a strike is approved by the union. Photo courtesy of Julia Issa

A Darigold dairy worker practices picketing as a strike is approved by the union. Photo courtesy of Julia Issa

Puget Sound Darigold workers on verge of strike amid contract negotiations

Workers cite lack of medical leave, outsourcing and bad-faith negotiations as reason for strike.

In July, the Teamsters Local 117 union, which represents Puget Sound dairy workers employed by Darigold, gave their final approval to strike amid new contract negotiations. Now, months after their union contract with Darigold expired and many have worked without a contract since the end of May, workers remain on the verge of a strike.

After the union proposed across-the-board wage increases for all employees, Darigold then proposed to reduce the wages of many employees. Union representatives are calling this a “bad faith” negotiation effort.

“Not only has Darigold failed to acknowledge the sacrifices its employees and their families made during the pandemic, it also has failed to bargain in good faith with the union,” said John Scearcy, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters 117.

Union spokesperson Yulia Issa said that along with bad-faith negotiating, workers are citing poor medical benefits amid the pandemic, lack of respect and outsourcing as grievances against Darigold.

Issa said workers have raised complaints regarding Darigold’s stingy medical leave policy, which she claims violates the state’s new paid family and medical leave law. She said many workers have not been given paid medical leave during the pandemic, causing adverse risks for medically vulnerable workers and their families.

The outsourcing of union jobs has also been raised as an issue among union workers. Issa said the dairy industry often requires highly specialized workers who cannot be replaced by less skilled and experienced laborers.

Issa said the mishandling of dairy products by third-party warehousers has led to the waste of “70 truckloads” of product, adding up to a collective 376,000 gallons of milk, cottage cheese and sour cream.

The union also raised the issue of Darigold’s recent announcement of a $500 million production plant in Pasco, Wash. Workers are concerned this new facility will cause job losses at the Seattle and Issaquah Darigold facilities.

In 2003, the Teamsters 117 Union workers at the Seattle Darigold facility held a nine-month strike. Issa said some workers were employed back then and still remember the conflict.

“The company’s refusal to bargain in good faith just shows their lack of respect for us,” said Jacob Westerlund, a Teamster shop steward at Darigold. “No one wants a strike, but we are serious about demanding equity and defending our livelihoods.”

The union contract mediation is still under negotiation and updates are expected next week. Whether union workers decide to strike will depend on the proposal given by Darigold, according to a union spokesperson.

“We have been unable to reach a fully ratified and signed Collective Bargaining Agreement with Teamsters Local Union No. 117 Issaquah and Rainier production and Corporate Lab employees,” said a Darigold spokesperson. “Our goal is a contract which supports the viability of business and our farmer-owned cooperative into the future and continues to fairly compensate our employees. In the end, we must have a contract that allows the organization to compete in the market.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Business

Snoqualmie Casino. Courtesy photo
Kirkland-based company sues to challenge ‘tribal gaming monopoly’ in Washington

Company called the state’s policy an “erroneous application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
The forces behind our current COVID-induced inflation | Guest column

Recent inflation numbers have been quite high and at levels not seen… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
The ‘year end’ elements of financial planning | Guest column

With the end of the year fast approaching, we remind clients that… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
How financial planners address plan uncertainty | Guest column

One of the key challenges we face as financial planners is dealing… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
Is cryptocurrency really an investment? | Guest column

Undoubtedly you have heard about the new form of money known as… Continue reading

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

Courtesy photo
The Cove Apartments to host open house Sept. 11

Attendees welcome to view the newly renovated apartment units.

Rice and noodle bowl with marinated chicken and tofu from the newest Sizzle & Crunch location at 31448 Pacific Highway S. in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Sizzle & Crunch Vietnamese Grill opens new restaurant in Federal Way

Grand opening weekend to be celebrated Sept. 3-5.

Rudi Alcott has been named publisher of the Daily Herald in Everett. In Federal Way, city leaders awarded him a Key to the City in recognition of his civic service and as the Mirror’s longest-tenured publisher. File photo
Rudi Alcott named publisher of The Daily Herald in Everett

Federal Way Mirror’s longest-tenured publisher was awarded a Key to the City in recognition of his civic service.

Photo by Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Federal Way Chamber CEO Becca Martin greets the audience before giving a “State of the Chamber” update during the membership luncheon Aug. 4 at the Performing Arts and Event Center.
Martin gives annual State of the FW Chamber address

The Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce celebrated a return to in-person… Continue reading

A Darigold dairy worker practices picketing as a strike is approved by the union. Photo courtesy of Julia Issa
Puget Sound Darigold workers on verge of strike amid contract negotiations

Workers cite lack of medical leave, outsourcing and bad-faith negotiations as reason for strike.

Courtesy photo
Curves reopens Federal Way gym at full capacity

The Federal Way all-women gym is located at 32020 1st Ave. S.