On the Picket Line

Wisconsin dairy workers strike for wage raise, health coverage

By Dan Fein
and Naomi Craine
September 4, 2023

DE PERE, Wis. — Over 30 members of Teamsters Local 662 have been on strike against New Dairy Select Milk here since July 10. The company is demanding workers take an inferior and more expensive health care plan.

On July 24, area building trades unions organized a barbecue on the picket line to show solidarity. Carpenters, ironworkers, laborers union members and staffers cooked bratwurst for the strikers.

“We are making them money and they want us to pay more for health insurance,” Pat Lensmire, who has worked at the plant for 34 years, told the Militant. It’s his first time on strike.

Striker Rob Anderson, with 24-years seniority, said, “Before I never paid much attention to the union, even though I was a member. This strike has changed my perspective — if I see a picket line now, I’ll stop and help picket or drop off some water.”

On the picket line Aug. 15, Local 662 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Strickland said the company rejected a union proposal to put workers on the Teamsters’ health plan, which would be less expensive with better benefits. “They actually said they don’t want the plan to be too attractive, because then more workers would sign up!”

The workers produce sour cream for Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Hello Fresh. The plant employed well over 100 union members until May 2022, when the bosses decided to stop processing liquid milk and focus on making sour cream, laying off the majority of the workforce. New Dairy Select Milk, formerly known as Morning Glory, is a subsidiary of the giant Borden company.

Jordan Steinhorest works in the lab. This is her first union job and her first strike. “The company says we are family. This strike shows the opposite,” she said. “The UPS trucks are honoring our picket line. Other trucks have refused to cross. They are doing production with management and three union members who have crossed the line, but they are not producing much.”

The union has set up a solidarity fund to support the strikers here and some 40 members of Local 662 on strike at Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls. The central issue in the brewery strike is wages.

Contributions can be sent to Teamsters Local 662 Solidarity Fund, 850 Hwy 153, Suite D, Mosinee, WI 54455. Join the picket line, 4 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.