It has been more than a year and a half since workers at three Chicago-area Lifeway Foods facilities overcame a vicious anti-union campaign and voted overwhelmingly to join the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM).
Since that time, Lifeway executives, including CEO Julie Smolyansky, have refused to negotiate a first union contract with BCTGM Local 1 (Chicago) and continue to violate federal labor law.
In November 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Summary Judgement ordering the company to negotiate with the union. In December 2015, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled that the company had illegally fired two workers, had violated federal law for anti-union activity, and had unilaterally changed work rules that ultimately harmed many of the company’s female workers.
Despite these actions, the spirit of the Lifeway workers has not been diminished. Instead, workers have remained steadfast and committed to their decision to become union members and are welcoming a renewed effort to expose the hypocrisy of CEO Julie Smolyansky.
International Vice President for the Midwest Region Jethro Head says that Smolyansky advocates progressive ideals publically but in the workplace adopts the attitude and behavior of an anti-union, anti-worker boss. “Ms. Smolyansky consistently talks about empowering women, about social equality and conscious capitalism. Yet her actions in the workplace reflect a deep disrespect for workers, their families, and federal law. Her actions contradict everything she talks about,” says Head.
According to BCTGM International President David B. Durkee, the International Union will do everything in its power to bring the company to the table to negotiate in good faith. “We are taking this issue very seriously. Local 1 will have the full weight of the International Union behind it as we bring this issue to the public. You cannot ignore the will of the people and disregard federal law without there being consequences,” concludes Durkee.