By David Louis Haydon
Cars and trucks honk at the signs strikers hold up during day eight of the Maximus Coffee strike. At one point, an SUV circles around. The driver presses his hand down on the horn.
The protestors, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, have been negotiating with Maximus Coffee Group about a proposed contract since summertime.
“I don’t think we’ve had any changes yet,” Scott Vinson, the representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said.
Vinson has stood post around the gates of the coffee plant, along with the other 250 on-striker workers. Three shifts exchange hours in order to give people a rest.
“Right now it’s about 100 on the first shift, 80 on the second shift and the rest on the third shift,” Vinson said, and pointed to the three points of interest around the perimeter of the plant. “We’re managing this post, the main gate and the gate where product goes out.”
Although the workers are on strike, Maximus Coffee has a skeleton crew of temporary workers.
“That furnace was heating up a little while ago, probably at about 20 percent capacity,” Vinson said. “That’s just a guestimation. I haven’t been in there but just from what trucks are coming out and what trucks are going in, it looks like 20 percent.”
In addition to the horns from people driving by, Vinson says any show of support is appreciated. “People can bring coffee in the mornings, water, even just come by to pray. Anything they can do,” Vinson said. “They (the workers) just need to know that people understand their fight.”
Grievances include proposed cuts to retirement benefits and increase in health insurance premiums.
“Spirits are good right now because they know their fight is for something that’s fair,” Vinson said.
Secretary Treasurer Rick Alleman said UFCW negotiated a contract two months ago with a similar unionized coffee plant, Farmer Brothers, which did not result in net losses.
A meeting with Maximus Coffee is planned for October 22, but nothing is guaranteed.
“We’re going to see what they got,” Alleman said. “We know what the big issues are. The insurance. The retirement. The wages.”