Workers at the Holten Meat facility in Sauget, Ill., have rejected the company’s contract offer and have gone on strike. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 voted 124-38 against the second contract offer. Those numbers authorized a strike after three months of negotiations.

“The issue here is not over economics,” said David Cook, the union local’s president. He said the critical issue was seniority language relating to job mobility.

Currently, the union said, a night-shift worker cannot use seniority to bid for an open day-shift job if it becomes available. Rather than allow senior employees to move to a different shift when a position opens up, the union said, Holten frequently hires new employees to fill those day jobs.

The union said the company had offered to make seniority rights part of their company policy but had refused to add similar wording to the union contract. Company policy is subject to change at any time, the union said.

Holten Meat issued a statement expressing the decision to reject a contract offer that “would significantly benefit all of our plant employees. However, Holten Meat is committed to providing our customers with high quality meat products. We will remain open for business and will continue to meet our customers’ needs.

“While the Union’s strike does present a difficult challenge for Holten Meat and, more importantly, Holten Meat’s employees, we firmly believe Holten Meat presented a fair and equitable contract offer to the Union and to our Plant employees that contained substantial economic and noneconomic benefits that if accepted would improve our employees’ lives.

“We will strive to resolve this matter in a timely and sincere manner while continuing to deliver the service that our customers expect and deserve. We look forward to Union members returning to work following a peaceful resolution of this dispute,” the company added.

Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Holten Meats