Fresh off their three day strike, members of the Kutztown University chapter of APSCUF were on the picket lines again. This time in support of workers at the Just Born plant in Bethlehem, PA – members of Bakery Workers (BCTGM) Local 6. Just Born makes Peeps, Mike & Ikes, Hot Tamales, and other candies. Following a three week strike, workers were pressured to return to work after the company began hiring replacement workers and about seventy union members crossed the line fearing losing their jobs permanently. The workers still have no contract.
To add insult to injury, Just Born refused to let 56 workers return to work. According to Jim Faulstick, a third-shift union steward who was one of the workers replaced, there seemed not rhyme nor reason to which workers were replaced. One woman still on the picket line has been with the company for 38 years. Another man has only been with the company for over a year. Several members I spoke to felt that the company was targeting them for speaking out or being active in their union. Some workers have been recalled, but as of Friday, 40 workers remain on the picket lines hoping to be recalled (for an excellent summary of the issues at stake in the contract fight, see Dan DiMaggio’s recent article in Labor Notes).
KU_APSCUF members joined the picket lines bringing coffee, water, and snacks to workers on the line. After many other unions showed up to support APSCUF’s strike, KU_APSCUF members are looking to do the same for other workers in the region.
Faulstick and some of the other union members still hoping to be recalled even as replacement – scab – workers do their work inside the walls of the company, think that the company is only beginning to call workers back now because unemployment benefits kicked in this past week. The union has filed five Unfair Labor Practice charges against Just Born, but that process can take some time.
With the candy production season getting in full swing, this fight promises to intensify.
You can support Bakery Workers Local 6 by writing to your local supermarket urging them not to stock Just Born products until all union workers are allowed to return to their jobs and a fair contract is reached. We will continue to follow this story.