MillerCoors union workers approve contract, avoid strike

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Union members at MillerCoors voted to approve a new contract Sunday morning, August 18th, avoiding a strike and keeping the beer flowing.

The agreement was approved by a wide margin with 213 voting in favor of and 44 voting against.

"I would say it's a pretty strong number. It was ratified overwhelmingly," said Nick Sommerville, Bargaining Committee Chairman.

The union says two major disagreements were holding up the contract -- workers compromised on one while MillerCoors compromised on the other. Issues regarding healthcare and the creation of a separate pay scale for new employees were at the heart of a dispute.

"Healthcare is getting complicated in this country and we move to a different plan in 2016 and it's going to cost us more money," said Sommerville.

In turn, Sommerville says, MillerCoors backed off a proposal to limit how much money new employees could make.

"The regular employees in a corporation make a certain amount of money. Any new hires coming in after a certain date would make less money with no option of getting to that higher pay rate. That didn't happen in this contract," Sommerville explained.

MillerCoors released a statement saying: "We are happy UAW represented employees ratified our agreement today and we look forward to continuing to brew great beers together."

"We get the state of the economy. This is a tough job. These guys pay us well -- we work for a great company -- we just want to keep it good," said Sommerville.

The new contract will last for three years. Sommerville says although talks were intense, there is no ill will that would affect the next negotiation. Union leaders say this was the closest they've come to a strike in 30 years.