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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, October 2, 2004

Meadow Gold strike averted

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Negotiators for Meadow Gold Dairies and its unionized employees reached a tentative agreement on a new contract early yesterday, avoiding a potential strike that could have left Hawai'i with little or no locally produced milk.

The contract that covers about 150 members of the Hawai'i Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996 expired at 12:01 yesterday morning. On Wednesday, workers authorized union officials to call a strike if talks failed. However, a tentative agreement was reached at about 4 a.m. yesterday, after 18 hours of negotiations, the union said.

The agreement will be presented to union members for ratification next week. Ron Kozuma, Teamsters secretary-treasurer, said details won't be released until after members review the proposed five-year contract.

Key issues included pension benefits, wages and health-care benefits, the union said. There was no interruption in Meadow Gold's work, Kozuma added.

"We all have families, so we understood the concern for our keiki and our elderly who depend on fresh milk and other products," he said.

Glenn Muranaka, president of Meadow Gold Dairies of Hawai'i, said he's optimistic that the employees will ratify the agreement.

"We're pleased with the tentative contract and are looking forward to continuing to supply Hawai'i with the highest quality products," he said.

Hawai'i has only two major processors of milk: Meadow Gold and Foremost Dairies-Hawaii. Foremost announced last month that it was closing down after 51 years of operations. It suspended much of its milk processing in August and is scheduled to close on Nov. 14.

If Foremost is no longer processing milk and Meadow Gold is on strike, the state would have no source for local milk. About 50 percent of Hawai'i's milk is imported.

The Meadow Gold contract covers drivers, processors, warehouse employees, clerical staff, mechanics, merchandisers, loaders and stackers.

Reach Sean Hao at 525-8093 or shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.