Chocolate Union OKs Hershey Deal

June 10, 2002 ( - The members of Chocolate Workers Local 464 voted overwhelmingly Saturday to approve a new contract with Hershey Foods, ending a six-week strike over health benefits.

According to the union, workers voted to approve the new contract by a vote of 1,848 to 226, ending the longest strike in the firm’s history.

Neither Hershey nor Chocolate Workers Local 464 would discuss terms of the agreement which was announced Thursday night after 11 hours of negotiations.  The union represents about 2,800 workers from two plants in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The company’s last offer prior to the strike called on workers to pay 10% of the cost of their health care coverage, up from 6% currently, a share that would increase to 12% by the end of the four-year contract.  It also provided annual pay raises for the workers, who make about $18 an hour on average, according to the union.

Union workers walked off the job April 26 after failing to reach an agreement on the company’s move to have workers pay a larger share of their health insurance costs.  The four-year union contract expired November 4.

Thursday’s talks were the second of the week. Talks initially began on Monday and ran for 21 hours before breaking down at an impasse.  At that point, Hershey said it would start to hire temporary replacement workers.

This was the fifth labor stoppage in the 97-year-old candy maker’s history.