Redco strike bonds workers

on Ackerman

Striking Redco Foods workers say they've shared plenty of coffee, doughnuts, stories and laughs outside the Little Falls plant since beginning their strike Nov. 1. 

Tuesday, they warmed up cold coffee by placing it in a pan on a grate over a barrel with fire in it. They have even cooked other food, including pizzas, over the barrel, said Teresa Estey, a Little Falls resident who has worked there almost 30 years. 

“We're coming up with a burn-barrel recipe book,” Estey joked. 

As workers continue their strike Wednesday, union members will meet with a mediator and company officials to try to make progress that wasn't made during two previous meetings since the strike started. 

The striking workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local No. 50 union and have been picketing from 6 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m. every working day since Nov. 1 outside the company's Little Falls facility. 

Some workers have also been striking outside the company's warehouse in East Herkimer. 

Community provides support

A train stormed by Tuesday and blew its whistle at the workers. Train conductors often blow the whistle or wave and one once stopped and bought them coffee, workers said. 

That type of support helped them through the holiday season, they said. 

Community members, the AFL-CIO Central New York Labor Council and other unions have all assisted. The council supplied them with turkeys before Thanksgiving, and Local No. 50 added items such as stuffing. 

Little Falls resident Ruth Boepple, who has worked there for 32 years, said she remains hopeful things will work out. 

“We all want our jobs back,” she said. 

Negotiations 'lack positive response'

Workers are striking because proposed two-year contracts aren't fair to new employees, Local No. 50 President Joyce Alston has said. 

Younger workers would have to contribute more to their medical insurance and wouldn't be eligible for the standard company pension plan available to longtime employees. 

Some concern also was expressed that if the changes were made for younger workers, they would eventually be shifted to apply for all workers. 

Union members' top priorities haven't changed, they're trying to keep their hopes up that something can be worked out with company officials, said Joe Svingala, vice president of Local No. 50. 

“They're not saying much,” he said of the company. “They leave it all up to us. We're doing our best, but there's a lack of a positive response.” 

Some of the more-than 50 union workers continued working with the company. The company advertised for positions in November and has hired some people, Svingala said. 

New people taking the jobs upsets the striking workers, some said, because they're striking to protect new workers. 

The lack of progress with negotiations has been frustrating, said Little Falls resident Marian Grandy, who has worked there for 31 years. 

“The company hasn't budged at all,” she said, but “morale is still good. We've done good. We bond well.” 

Redco Foods officials declined to comment.