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Stella D'oro Workers to Fight Retaliatory Plant Closure

Posted to the IUF website 16-Jul-2009

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The 136 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) on strike for nearly 11 months at the New York biscuit maker Stella D'oro (Buyouts, Bread Sticks, Biscotti) returned to work on July 6 to find that private equity owners Brynwood Partners would be closing the plant within 90 days and relocating production.

Brynwood, which boasts of its 28.8% returns to investors, bought the company from Kraft in 2006. They forced the union out on strike last year by presenting a take-it-or-leave-it contract offer which would have shredded wages and benefits. From August 14, 2008, union members showed tremendous solidarity on the picket line, winning growing community, national and international support for holding the line against a predatory financial investor

In response to an unfair labour practices complaint filed by the union at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) earlier this year, a judge on June 30 agreed with the union that Brynwood had committed an unfair labour practice by invoking economic difficulties to justify the contract slash-and-burn offer but then refusing to provide any information about the company's actual finances. The judge ordered the workers reinstated with back pay, instructing the company to furnish the requested information and engage in genuine bargaining.

The union has responded to the announced closure by filing new charges against Brynwood Partners at the NLRB denouncing the threat to relocate production and close the factory as illegal retaliation for the union's successful legal action in getting the workers back to their jobs.

According to BCTGM Local 50, which represents the Stella workers, "In an attempt to reopen negotiations, the union exercised its right to demand bargaining over both the renewal of the expired collective agreement and the company’s decision to close the plant and relocate production. In a July 13 letter to company attorney Mark Jacoby, the union asked to be given the information the federal judge had previously ordered the company to provide. Further, since the company indicated that it was relocating production because of allegedly high labor costs, the union is entitled to and demanded information regarding the identity of the facility production was being transferred to and the projected costs of production and distribution of Stella D’oro products from that facility."

The union has also highlighted the tax rebates and subsidies that Brynwood Partners have received from city and state government to encourage local manufacturing.