Will Peeps Worker Strike Put Easter Candy At Risk?

Image courtesy of JeepersMedia

Love’em or hate’em, you’re probably used to seeing brightly-colored marshmallow Peeps in the shape of bunnies and chicks peeking out of Easter baskets every year. But now that hundreds of workers have walked off the job at the factory where the candy is made, is it possible that we may see a dip in the Peeps population next Easter?

About 400 union employees of Just Born Quality Confections in Bethlehem, PA went on strike around noon on Wednesday, The Allentown Morning Call reports, after late-night negotiating sessions to reach new labor deals failed. The workers had been laboring under an expired contract since June.

The union said its members voted to strike on Sept. 2 after a unanimous vote put the kibosh on the company’s most recent contract offer. At issue is Just Born’s proposal to get rid of employees’ pensions while offering substandard pay increases and increasing employees’ contributions to health care costs, the union said.

“Workers deserve to be treated fairly with reasonable wage increases and a pension that allows them to retire with dignity,” said Hank McKay, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 6, in a statement announcing the strike.

Just Born’s vice president of corporate affairs Matt Pye says the company is “fully committed” to working with the union.

“Just Born has been in business since 1923, and we care very deeply about the people we employ and welfare of our local community,” he said in a statement. “We want to sustain our business so we can continue to offer good-paying jobs and be a pillar in the community for another 93 years.”

So what about the fate of holiday candy? Halloween and Christmas Peeps production won’t be affected, the company says, because production on 2016 candy has already wrapped. As for the Big Bunny Show in the spring, Just Born says it’s “is in good shape” with inventory because Easter candy production goes on year-round.

Workers disagree, however, with one employee telling the Morning Call that the strike was timed this way on purpose, saying that Easter orders are just now coming in.

“So we held out [until now], because it kind of hits them the hardest,” she said. “They need us more than they think.”

Just Born may end up using replacement workers to fill in any production gaps that arise, Pye said: the company would use “internal resources,” or nonunion workers and managers, to maintain production for the time being.

“However, we will do whatever it takes to continue to meet customer orders,” he said.

Union workers walk out at Just Born, maker of Peeps, in first strike in decades [The Morning Call]

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