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      Pinnacle workers prepared to strike

      Pensions are at stake for 431 union workers at Pinnacle Foods out of Montrose, Iowa.

      Members of Local 617 says they will strike before they allow the company to do away with their retirement.

      "The company is wanting to take away our pension benefits. That's a very serious issue for us, because that's what we look forward to live off of once we get older and retire. They're not wanting to offer us anything in exchange, no increase in pay, no 401K contribution. They just basically want to take it away," Local 617 President Darin Boatman said.

      More than 300 union workers met at the Keokuk Labor Temple Sunday to authorize a strike vote. Boatman said it was unanimous decision to walk off the job if needed. He says they're prepared for the consequences of a strike.

      "We have a strike fund and money will be granted from the International Teaching Employee. But naturally, we're concerned. It's our livelihoods. A lot of us have spent 20-30 years in the plant and we want to continue to work there," Boatman said.

      Pinnacle Foods and its union members began the bargaining process back in September. Boatman says company officials met in private Tuesday to discuss their options. They could not be reached for comment.

      Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion went through one of Lee County's longest lockouts back in 2011 with Roquette America. He knows the consequences a loss of work can have on the Lee County community.

      "The one with Roquette was devastating because you have the businesses in town. People aren't able to shop like they used to. There were factions back and forth. We even had problems in school where kids got into an argument over one parent who was working and the other's wasn't. So, it's devastating hit to the community," Marion said.

      Members of the Local 617 say a loss in pension would be devastating.

      "If we have to strike, that is our intent to get what we're asking for. We want to keep our pension. I think everybody's prepared to do what they have to do to win this," Boatman said.

      A contract extension approved in October will keep the employees on through midnight on Jan. 13.

      The company produces canned foods including chili, Vienna sausages and Armour brands.