BRAWLEY – Unionized Spreckels Sugar employees await a decision from Judge Gonzalo Curiel in downtown San Diego’s Federal Court to determine whether the employees can continue to strike.

"After unionized workers went out on strike over unfair labor practices at Spreckels Sugar (owned by Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative), the company filed for a temporary injunction to halt the strike in federal court," a press release from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135 reads received by IVP late Friday evening.

The call to strike was made under the UFCW Local 135, said union Communications Director Brent Beltrán. Beltrán said Spreckels filed an injunction to stop the strike, which stemmed from two allegedly unlawful labor charges as well as alleged bad faith negotiations and intimidation.

The Hon. Judge Curiel heard the case on Friday, March 10, but according to the Friday press release, the judge still had not issued a ruling over whether the strike can continue or not.

“(Spreckels) is trying to say our strike was unlawful … we will follow whatever decisions the judge makes,” Beltrán said in an interview on Thursday, March 9.

The strike began at 6 a.m. on Thursday, March 9, — both the plant site in Brawley on Keystone Road as well as a its warehouse in Imperial — after union members realized that they would be losing thousands of dollars out of their pension during a roll over from the original plans into 401Ks.

According to Beltrán, union members attempted to renegotiate after the discovery, but Speckles refused since the union had already voted to approve the change, leading to the union's vote to strike being passed on March 1.

Additionally, Beltrán accused Speckles leadership of threatening union workers, saying Speckles threatened to end the employment of anyone who strikes.

"These essential workers are tired of the disrespect and demand that the company roll over its pension plan in a way that the workers deserve and negotiate a settlement quickly and fairly, which it has yet to do," Beltrán said.

"Some workers stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars unless we act now," Todd Walters, UFCW Local 135 President, said in a press release on Wednesday, March 8. "The workers are fed up and ready to take action over the unfair labor practices committed by Spreckels," Walters said.

The strike was "overwhelmingly attended," said Clarissa Zavala, Spreckels Shop Steward and Picket Captain.

Zavala said all unionized employees, save one, participated in the strike.

"We are out here demanding respect from the company" Zavala said in a press release sent Friday, March 10. "They have failed to bargain fairly over the pension rollover, causing many of us to lose thousands of dollars in retirement benefits. They have also tried to intimidate my co-workers to prevent us from exercising our rights, so, we decided to stand up and fight. And now they are trying to take away our right to strike with this injunction."

"¡Viva la huelga!" Zavala said.

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