Published: 17/06/2002

The 2,800 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 464 on strike since April 26 began returning to work June 10 after overwhelmingly ratifying a new four-year contract with the Hershey Foods Corp.

BCTGM members on strike at two Hershey Foods Corp. plants voted by a margin of nearly 9 to 1 to approve the company’s contract offer, ending the longest work stoppage in the history of the nation’s No. 1 candy manufacturer.

The 2,700 members of Local 464 accepted lower wage increases in exchange for keeping their employee health benefit premium contributions at 6 percent over the contract’s four years.

Workers will receive a $525 signing bonus and annual pay raises of 46 cents an hour in the first year, 2.7 percent in year two, 38 cents in year three, and 2.93 percent in year four. In exchange for keeping insurance co-pays at 6 percent, the workers gave up 4 cents an hour of their raises in the first year, 6 cents in the second year, 2 cents in the third year, and 7 cents in the fourth year.

Hershey Foods agreed to include more workers in the company-financed retiree medical coverage plan, in which participants are guaranteed a minimum average rate of return of 8 percent. The concession will cost the company $7 million, union leaders said.

Hershey Foods also made concessions on prescription card plans, deferring changes and rate increases.

The strike lasted 44 days, surpassing the old record of 29 days set in 1953.