Employees fight for increased benefits and wages
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Before sunrise Monday, more than 200 employees of Sorrento Cheese walked off the job.
The employees are members of Teamsters Local 264 at Sorrento's South Park plant. The men and women said they are fighting for better health care coverage.
A union rep said the strike was authorized by a secret ballot vote two weeks ago.
Sorrento issued a statement saying, "At the request of the union, the company provided its final offer. This offer included a competitive package of healthcare benefits, improved wages, and other terms that benefit its employees."
A union rep said the workers will continue to strike until both parties can reach an agreement.
Just blocks away, employees at Mercy Hospital cast their vote on a new set of contracts.
Members of CWA Local 1133 voted on separate contracts, one by the RN bargaining unit, and the other by the Service, Technical, Clerical Bargaining Unit.
"It is a very emotional decision that people have to make because in CWA, if you vote no on a contract, you're voting yes for a strike," said CWA Area Director, Debbie Hayes.
Patricia Warnes, the CWA president, said workers in both units are frustrated with changes to their health care, pension plans, and wages. The union said Monday's ratification vote comes after lengthy negotiations.
"We're hopeful after today that we can walk away and say that we got a fair and just contract for our members," said Warnes.
Members of CWA Local 1133 voted down contracts back in June. Union officials said they went back to the bargaining table to re-negotiate the contracts for this round of voting.
"There's a few small changes that we were able to negotiate but significant enough that we thought we should bring it back for a vote," Hayes said.
The union is hopeful both contracts will be ratified. If not, workers have agreed to go on strike, pulling 2,000 workers from the hospital.
"Not trying to take advantage of anybody, we're just looking for a fair deal. And the union gives us the opportunity to make sure we get a fair deal," said hospital employee Hal Miller.
YNN reached out to Mercy Hospital, which has no comment at this time.
The results of the vote are expected late Monday night.