Hormel workers at Corn Nuts plant go on strike

Dive Brief:

  • Forty employees at a Hormel Foods plant in Fresno, California, that makes Corn Nuts have gone on strike, according to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 85 that represents the workers. 
  • The strike, which started on Aug. 16, occurred because Hormel changed the workers’ medical plan without notifying the employees or bargaining with the union, BCTGM said. 
  • The strike is the latest to hit the food industry as workers look for changes or concessions from companies at a time of labor shortages, increased product demand and supply chain disruptions.

Dive Insight:

While the strike at the California Corn Nuts plant is still in its infancy and unlikely to impact the supply of the crunchy snack, a long-term ordeal could eventually make its way to store shelves. The Fresno Bee, citing the union, noted the estimated 40 workers on strike include the entire production team. As a result, the facility will not make additional products until an agreement is reached.

Hormel purchased Corn Nuts last year as part of its $3.35 billion deal with Kraft Heinz that also included Planters — now the biggest brand in its portfolio — and Cheez Balls. It was the largest deal in the Minnesota company’s more than 100-year history. 

In a statement emailed to Food Dive, Hormel said it has been in negotiations since acquiring the facility and expressed disappointment in not having reached a deal with the union. The company said negotiations will continue and that it is “optimistic that we will reach an agreement in the near future.”

The food industry has been impacted by a series of strikes during the last couple of years at large CPG companies including Kellogg, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay and Mondelēz. The Kellogg strike lasted 11 weeks and affected 1,400 union-represented workers at four ready-to-eat cereal plants.

The sudden turmoil reflects a unique set of conditions impacting the labor market and food industry that has given unions extra leverage, and manufacturers a greater incentive to meet their demands. It marks a dramatic reversal for union workers who had seen their impact decline during the previous four decades.