Just a year after Local 70 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) organized Roskam Baking Company’s new cereal plant in Grand Rapids, the company has voluntarily recognized the local union at its new candy manufacturing facility.
In 2008, representatives from Local 70–which has had a decades-long relationship with the company at facilities throughout Michigan–approached Roskam management about voluntarily recognizing the union at the new facility. Initially the company refused, however it allowed Local 70 representatives into the plant to gauge worker interest. Due to overwhelming interest, the local signed up a significant majority of the workforce and presented the authorization cards to management. The company immediately recognized the local union and has subsequently negotiated a five year collective bargaining agreement. This plant produces Bear Naked cereal for the Kellogg Company.
In August, Roskam management voluntarily recognized Local 70 at the company’s new Grand Rapids candy facility after the local produced a clear majority of signed authorization cards from workers. Negotiations are set to begin immediately. The new plant produces products for Hershey Company, under the Zagnuts, Reese’s Crispy Crunch, Mr. Good Bar and Cookies and Crème brands.
According to David B. Durkee, BCTGM International Secretary-Treasurer and Director of Organization, the BCTGM experience at Roskam shows that labor relations, specifically organizing, does not have to be so adversarial.
“This really is a win-win situation. The workers get a solid union contract and representation on the job, while the company gets a dedicated workforce. And it’s very clear, that free of management interference and intimidation, workers would prefer to belong to a union,” said Durkee.
“Many non-union food producers are willing to spend millions of dollars on anti-union lawyers to keep the union out; they intimidate, harass and fire workers for union activity; and then they are surprised when they have high turnover, low efficiency and an unhappy and unhealthy workforce. It just doesn’t make sound business sense to run your business in this manner,” continued Durkee.
Local 70, which has contracts with Keebler Company and Kerry Ingredients, also represents Roskam workers at a snack foods plant in Grand Rapids and two plants in Kentwood, Michigan.