Support the Stella D'Oro Workers on Strike!: Do Not Buy Stella D'Oro Products!

 Stella D'Oro makes cookies, bread sticks, biscotti cookies and other baked goods. The Stella D'Oro bakery was bought several years ago by a private equity firm called Brynwood Partners. This firm forced the Teamsters, who delivered the products from the factory to the stores, to go on strike, and then defeated the union. This work is now done by non-union companies.

Brynwood Partners is now trying to destroy the factory workers' union, Bakers, Confectionery, Tobacco workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Local 50. Prior to August 13th, 2008, about 140 members of the local worked at the Bronx factory. 80 percent of the workers were considered "unskilled." About 20 percent of the workers had a trade, such as electricians, mechanics, mixers and similar positions. Socialist Appeal recently interviewed shop steward Mike Filippou about the strike.

 

SA: How did the strike start?

MF: The company wanted to take away 5 of the 14 paid holidays from the skilled workers, all 12 of our sick days, and make us pay $1.50 to $1.75 per hour for our medical coverage, which up to then had been paid by the company. They wanted senior workers, who had 5 weeks of paid vacation to give up a week. These paid holidays, sick days and vacation days had been won in prior years in return for less pay! Also, the company wanted to eliminate our pension and replace it with a 401k plan. The company wanted the unskilled workers to get $1/hour cut in pay per year for the entire contract and they wanted a five year contract instead of the usual three year contract. The company cried poverty and we wanted them to open their books. They brought a huge book to a negotiating session, but they would not allow us to take it to our accountant. We felt the company was not negotiating in good faith and wanted to get rid of the union, so the strike started on August 13th.

SA: What did the union do?

MF: The union started picket lines and filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB [Federal National Labor Relations Board]. We are waiting for their decision. The company hired scabs, but it took them at least 6 or 7 weeks before production was back up. Right now, they are producing about 30 to 40 percent of what we used to produce.

SA: How is the company responding to the strike?

MF: The Company is trying to demoralize the strikers by making false accusations against some of the leaders. They falsely accused one strike leader of calling an executive's home to threaten him and he must now go to court to clear his name of these false charges. Another strike leader was falsely accused of putting nails under a scab's car. This guy must now stay away from the picket line but he is also fighting this in court. The union has provided an attorney for both of these leaders.

SA: How is the strike doing now?

MF: No members have crossed the picket line. On January 31, 2009, we held a rally with other unions and community supporters and 500 people showed up. This included Ed Ott, the director of the NYC Central Labor Council. We now have a striker support committee that meets every Monday night in the Bronx [www.stelladorostrike2008.com] and we are planning our next rally in March. We have started a campaign to go to other unions and the community to ask them not to buy Stella D'Oro products, until the strike is won. If there are people in cities outside New York, who can set up committees and get the information out there, that would be excellent! The company's production is down and they pay more for extra security. They must hire outside contractors to fix the machines, which we used to do, and that costs them more money. We are prepared to stay out on strike until we get our jobs back with a fair contract!


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