After three months of fruitless picketing, the union representing locked out workers at a southeast potato chip plant is taking aim at the Old Dutch brand.
“It appears we’re not going to have any choice but to turn up the volume and really turn the public off of buying their product,” says Joe Attwood with United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 401. “It’s not something that we wanted to do, but they really leave us little choice.”
Old Dutch Foods and the union haven’t had a labour agreement for more than a year. “There’s really been no effort by either party to get back to the table since talks broke down,” says Scott Kelemen, the company’s national marketing director.
Almost 120 of 180 employees are picketing outside the Foothills Industrial Park plant, which is an open shop, meaning union membership and dues are optional for employees — something the union wants to change.
The union is also raising worries about food safety. “You’ve got a ceiling of galvanized steel that was painted a long time ago with lead paint,” says Attwood. “The paint is chipping down off the ceiling and there’s a possibility that that could contaminate the food.”
Kelemen, however, says that while the building is old, it’s well-maintained and regularly inspected. “All of our Old Dutch facilities are held to the highest standards as defined by the industry.”
The union is also calling for a guaranteed workweek for employees.