MADISON, Wis. - Employees at Madison's Oscar Mayer plant plan to rally Thursday afternoon, saying Kraft Heinz management is not honoring the union contract as work winds down at the facility.
Union President Doug Leikness told News 3 that the company released a union steward and at least one other employee with seniority recently, eliminating those positions ahead of others more junior at the company. Leikness said the company's collective-bargaining agreement says that the company "may" let senior employees go if they volunteer, but "must" eliminate more junior employees first.
"They're not working with us any more," Leikness said. "They've decided that they're going to do it their way and if we don't like it we have our remedies outlined in the contract with arbitration."
Currently 110 employees are still working at Oscar Mayer, and are expected to continue through June.
In a statement, the company says they are following the "closing agreement" the company signed along with union representatives.
"Honoring the terms of this agreement is a top priority so that our employees are treated fairly and with complete regard for their safety," said Michael Mullen, senior vice-president of corporate and government affairs for Kraft Heinz. "We continue to come to the table with solutions to resolve any areas of disagreement and we remain committed to following the established procedures that ensure our employees are treated with the utmost dignity and respect."
Leikness says if the company does not find a remedy to recently filed labor grievances, the issue could go to extended arbitration, long after the plant is expected to end production in June.
"We don't want to be spending time and funds fighting Kraft as they're on the way out of town," Leikness said. "We just want to get along, finish up, get it closed, everybody gets taken care of and they can go away."
The union is planning a rally Thursday from 1-2p.m. directly across the street from Kraft Heinz headquarters and has asked neighbors, retired workers and others to attend.