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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March 2005, 10:50 GMT
Nut strike cracks after 13 years
The dispute proved a tough nut to crack
Striking workers at a walnut processing plant in California have voted to bring their 13-year walkout to an end.

The 600 members of the Teamsters Local 601 union went on strike at the Diamond of California plant in September 1991 in a dispute over pay.

They have now finally ratified a new five-year contract, clearing the way for their return to work.

However, most of the workers have now found jobs elsewhere, and the union admits they are unlikely to return.

Nobody ever thought it would take this long
Lucio Reyes, union secretary-treasurer

The company has also filled most of their old positions, or replaced them with automated processes.

However, each striking member of staff is now being given 10 days to respond to letters inquiring if they want to return to the world's largest walnut processing plant.

"I think it was worth it in that we did accomplish something," said the union.

'Feeling good'

"Nobody ever thought it would take this long," said Lucio Reyes, the union's secretary-treasurer.

"The company didn't expect it, we didn't expect it. Both parties now realize we have to work together.

"Everyone should be feeling good about this."

The 1991 walkout had its origins back in 1985 when staff at the Diamond plant in Stockton agreed to a 30% reduction in wages during tough times for the company.

Both the union and the workers expected staff to be repaid as the company's finances improved, but in 1991 they were offered just a 10 cents-an-hour raise, and a bonus package.

This sparked the more than 13-year walkout.

Back in 2000, the head of the Teamsters union, James Hoffa, equated the striking walnut workers to the heroes of John Steinbeck's classic Depression-period workers' rights novel The Grapes of Wrath.

"The workers at Stockton's Diamond plant, they are the ones who stood up," said Mr Hoffa, son of former Teamsters chief Jimmy Hoffa who disappeared in 1975 and is thought to have been murdered.

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