Festus Goodwill

The Festus MERS Goodwill store at 1255 N. Truman Blvd.

Before employees from the MERS Goodwill store in Festus could set up a picket line, their strike ended.

The 20 employees from the store, 1255 N. Truman Blvd., voted on April 11 to reject the company’s proposal and begin a strike.

That was after the employees voted in September 2019 to unionize as a part of Local 655 of the United Food and Commercial Workers and the local and MERS Goodwill began negotiating a contract, but to no avail.

“Eighteen months is a little long for a first contract,” said Garry Torpea, secretary-treasurer of Local 655. “The negotiations weren’t perfectly smooth. There were definitely ups and downs, but in the end, it got done.”

Torpea said the strike vote resulted in a new, better contract offer from the company, which was accepted by an 87 percent majority of the employees on April 25.

“We’re happy the result was a union contract,” Torpea said. “This was a big win for these hard-working people.”

Officials with MERS Goodwill could not be reached for comment.

Torpea said the approved contract included guaranteed wage increases on employees’ anniversary dates, as well as one backdated to January 2021.

“A big thing is that the contract also extends sick leave and bereavement pay to part-time employees,” Torpea said.

He said the store has about six part-time workers.

“Another thing we were able to do is the company will now offer dental and vision insurance to employees a year earlier than they were doing so,” Torpea said.

“And the big factor that a lot of people don’t realize now that they’re under a union contract, the workers at the store are guaranteed an arbitration procedure, which strengthens the value of their jobs.”

Torpea said MERS Goodwill will extend the same pay and benefits to its other, nonunionized locations in the St. Louis area. “Local 655 looks forward to partnering with MERS Goodwill to help their business thrive, which in turn will help our employees thrive,” he said.