Posted at: 09/01/2014 7:15 PM
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 News) -- It’s become an end-of-summer tradition for Austin’s Local 9.
"It's our annual Labor Day picnic," union president Rich Morgan told us. "It's just a coming together of the labor folks, celebrating all of our hard work for the year."
But even on a day dedicated to food and fun, work isn't completely out-of-mind.
"The labor movement isn't as slow as it has been. People are finally starting to fight back," Morgan said.
Labor union membership has always been cyclical, but the membership of Local 9 has just spiked.
"We just merged with Seneca foods in Rochester," Morgan explained.
Local 9 now represents about 200 full-time and 400 seasonal workers at Seneca.
"It gives us a lot more leverage and strength," Morgan told ABC6.
Renae Brackey has worked on the floor at Hormel foods for 30 years, and she's been a member of Local 9 all that time. If you ask what the union means to her, her *first* thought isn't about wages or benefits: "Keeping us safe on the floor," she explained.
And in 30 years, there's been some changes in the role of a union.
“Interpretation is a big thing right now on the work force," Brackey said.
And for Rich Morgan and the leadership at Local 9, it's back to work once Labor Day is past: contract negotiations begin later this month with International Paper.
Contract talks with Hormel Foods will be held next year, and Local 9 negotiated a new contract with Quality Pork Processors last year.