Our Working Lives

AUGUSTA COUNTY: UNION ORGANIZING AT HERSHEY PLANT

Originally published in the Winter 2022 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 67, printed February 3. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2022 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

By Kat McNeal

Workers at the Hershey Chocolate plant in Stuarts Draft, Va., filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board Jan. 18 to be represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM). According to the Staunton News Leader, workers say the main issues are a lack of time off, disrespect on the job and frequent changes that are poorly communicated by management.

The plant in Augusta County employs 1,100 people and makes candies, including Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joys and Mr. Goodbars.

The workers began their campaign in early 2021 when they linked up with BCTGM, which also represents a Hershey plant and country club in Pennsylvania. The Virginia plant would be represented by Local 358, which went on strike this past summer at a Mondelez factory in Henrico County, joining five other locations around the country and winning important gains in their new contract.

Someone – presumably Labor Relations Institute, a private consulting company hired by Hershey, launched a website last October to persuade workers at the Stuarts Draft facility not to sign union cards.

“To be clear, we do not want a union at Stuart’s [sic] Draft,” the site repeatedly states.

But in mid-February, it will be the Hershey workers who will have their say when they vote whether or not to have union representation.

Stay tuned.

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