DENVER- Teamsters Local 455, which represents the Denver meat packers, did not endorse the contract proposal at the company’s beef plant in Fort Morgan. According to the union, the contract offered 1,700 workers wage increases that were inadequate and cut healthcare benefits while increasing costs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports the meat packing industry’s injury and illness rate is 2.5 times higher than the national average and Teamsters Local 455 believe this necessitates affordable, quality healthcare.

"With this vote our members sent a clear message to the company – it is time to put a serious offer on the table," said Steve Vairma, secretary-treasurer of Local 455 and western region director of the warehouse division. "Time after time we went to the company with reasonable proposals that addressed the major concerns of our members and time after time it rejected them out of hand."

On May 12, a federal mediator will oversee more negotiations between Cargill and the union.

"Cargill needs to recognize that it can't expect its workers to subsist on low wages and pay a premium for insufficient health care," Vairma said. "It is time for Cargill to do the right thing and negotiate a contract that addresses the concerns of this workforce."

A spokeswoman from Cargill replied to a request for comment: “It is our policy not to comment on ongoing contract negotiations.”