Union president accuses Redco of illegally importing strike breakers

Eric Monnat

The three-month-old Redco strike has taken an unusual turn, with the union claiming the company broke an immigration law to help facility operations.

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union President Frank Hunt sent a letter earlier this week to federal Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff requesting an investigation into possible violations of United States immigration law by Redco Foods Inc. and its German parent company, Teekanne GmbH.

“We have reliable information that after Thanksgiving, for several weeks, two German nationals were brought into the country to service machines normally maintained by our members,” wrote Hurt in a the letter, adding he believes another German national is present in the Little Falls facility.

Members of BCTGM Local 50 have been on strike since Nov. 2 and picketing outside the facility in Little Falls and a warehouse in East Herkimer.

BCTGM Director of Research and Education Ray Scannell said between the United States and European Union, there is free travel for tourists, where no visa is needed, just a passport.

This is similar with a business trip to attend a meeting, a person won't need a work visa.

However, according to Scannell, if a person is coming here to work, that person must obtain a work visa, which are not issued to people who are replacement workers for workers on strike.

“Our understanding is the people working at the Redco plant do not have work visas. If they do, they were issued in error,” said Scannell.

Scannell said if things go as they should, the company's imported workers will be sent home and the company will be adjoined by courts.

“(The company) should be forced to agree with Homeland Security that they will not import strike workers,” said Scannell. “The key is to get the company to stop importing strike breakers.”

He said the union has heard the company's sophisticated machinery is not running properly without the highly skilled work force.

“That's why (the company) reached out to the parent company, instead of reaching out to people on the bridge, fly technicians in from Germany,” said Scannell.

Redco manufactures and distributes various food and beverage items under the brands Salada, Red Rose and Junket.

Redco General Manager Doug Farrell had no comment.