Stella D’oro cookie plant on strike

November 12, 2008

NEW YORK--Bakery workers at Stella D'oro cookie and biscuit factory in the Bronx have been on strike for three months.

The 136 workers, who belong to Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 50, rejected a contract offered by the new owners who purchased Stella D'oro earlier this year.

One provision of the rejected contract would have cut some workers' pay by $1 an hour for each year of the five-year contract. Another would make workers contribute 20 percent to their health care coverage--previously, health care has been 100 percent company paid. Gurdip Mann, a worker at the plant for many years, said: "How can we go backwards. My expenses are going up, not down. If I make $18 an hour now, how can I make $13 an hour in five years."

The company is paying scabs to cross the picket line. Police barriers allow strikers to picket near, but not block, the plant's main entrance.

Juan Torres, another longtime worker, said: "they bring in 25 to 40 scabs, but they change every two weeks. We've been doing these jobs for years. You can't learn them in two weeks." Referring to the new owners, Juan continued: "They know how to make money, they don't know about baking. They don't know how to make cookies."

As the strike continues, the workers seem prepared for a long struggle. While there are no negotiations, an action with the labor board may limit the number of scabs the company can bring into the plant. The strikers have their local and international union behind them and receive a small strike benefit each week to help with expenses.

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