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Simplot workers vote down contract, continuing strike

Striking Simplot workers in Grand Forks again voted down a proposed contract from the company Thursday.

The vote came a day after J.R. Simplot Co. and union officials “participated in a marathon mediation session,” according to a post on the Teamsters Local 120’s Facebook page. Workers “overwhelmingly” rejected the new offer, said Teamsters Business Agent Bill Wedebrand.

Wedebrand did not have a vote tally immediately available Thursday.

He said the company made some changes to scheduling in its new offer, but it wasn’t enough to carry the votes.

“Simplot is disappointed that Teamsters Local 120 has voted to continue striking at our Grand Forks plant despite our willingness to engage in constructive dialogue to get everyone impacted back to work,” Simplot spokesman Doug Cole wrote in an email. “We remain optimistic that a resolution can be found, but will proceed with our plant business operations in order to satisfy customer demand.”

Production at the plant has been on hold temporarily during previously scheduled cleaning and maintenance, according to the company. A company spokesman previously said Simplot management employees across from North America may be brought in to run the plant when production was scheduled to restart.

Simplot workers have been picketing outside the Gateway Drive Simplot plant since Aug. 4 after rejecting a contract that they said lengthens shifts, increases health care costs and changes retirement benefits.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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