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By Michael Rose
Sept. 7 — About 400 workers who manufacture marshmallow Peeps candy at the Just Born Inc. plant in Bethlehem, Pa., went on strike after rejecting a company contract proposal, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union announced.
The union said Sept. 7 the company proposal would have eliminated workers’ pension plan and provided “substandard” wage increases.
Hank McKay, president of BCTGM Local 6, told Bloomberg BNA that the company had proposed a contract with no wage increase in the first year, and increased health care costs for workers.
“For half a century, we’ve had an excellent relationship” with the company, McKay said. The changes the company was seeking to make likely were due to restructuring that was taking place, he said.
Just Born is a privately held company that also manufactures Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales candies, as well as Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, which are made in a Philadelphia plant where workers also are represented by the BCTGM. McKay said workers there also have been negotiating a contract, for more than a year.
No further bargaining talks have been scheduled, McKay said. The union said the bargaining process began in May.
In a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA, Matt Pye, vice president of corporate affairs at Just Born, said the disagreement stemmed from the company’s proposal to move newly hired workers to a 401(k) plan rather than have them participate in a multiemployer pension plan, which he called “unsustainable.”
“Just Born remains fully committed to working with BCTGM Union Local 6 to reach an agreement that allows us to stay competitive and is fair and equitable for all parties,” Pye said. “Just Born has been in business since 1923, and we care very deeply about the people we employ and welfare of our local community. We want to sustain our business so we can continue to offer good paying jobs and be a pillar in the community for another 93 years.”
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