Oct. 12--About 250 employees at Maximus Coffee Group on the outskirts of downtown Houston went on strike after negotiations deadlocked over pay and benefit issues.
Union officials say the coffee roasting and grinding company wants employees to take as much as a 50 percent cut in pay while shouldering more of the cost of health care. The strike began shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.
The employees, who earn between $16 and $25 an hour, are looking at pay cuts between 25 percent to 50 percent, said Rick Alleman, secretary treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 455. When including typical overtime, that would cost some employees $10,000 to $15,000 in annual wages, he said.
Especially troubling, he said, is that many employees haven't had a pay raise since 2009, he said. The only increase they've seen is a 1 percent annual bonus in 2010, 2011 and 2012, he said.
"They didn't leave us with too much choice did they?" he noted, referring to the employees' decision to go on strike.
Maximus Coffee officials couldn't be reached for comment. However, the company put a statement on its website that it has made "significant efforts to reach agreement with the union" and that it continues to "stand ready, willing and able" to meet with union representatives.
The company noted that it's working to meet the needs of its customers but does not "anticipate any significant, long-term disruptions to its operations."
The contract expired in July, but both sides extended the agreement because negotiations were continuing, said Alleman. He said about 90 percent of the employees are members of the union and they are supporting the strike.
Alleman said the employees are also upset about the company's proposal to eliminate its practice of paying time and one-half when employees work on holidays.
It has also proposed eliminating its match on a 401(k) retirement program, he said. Currently, the company contributes 20 cents for every dollar contributed up to 6 percent of an employee's salary.