Money and Main Street

On strike! Labor gets tough in the recession

When faced with factory closures, workers fight back with mixed results.

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Stella D'Oro cookie plant, The Bronx, N.Y.
Stella D'Oro cookie plant, The Bronx, N.Y.

More than 130 workers at the Stella D'Oro cookie factory in the Bronx -- members of the Local 50 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers - went on strike in August 2008 after plant owner Brynwood Partners demanded reductions in pay and benefits.

The owner said the hourly wages of $18 to $22 an hour, with nine weeks of paid leave along with pension and medical benefits, ruled out the possibility of profitability.

In early July, after striking for nearly 11 months, the workers were called back to the plant following a ruling from an administration law judge with the National Labor Relations Board, who decided that the company had withheld financial information from the union.

"We do deserve the pay that we used to get paid, and we're willing to fight to keep the company here in the Bronx," said Sara Rodriguez, a union worker at the plant for 11 years. "I'm a single mom and, like everybody else, I need a job."

But the workers' victory was short-lived, because the owner has decided to shut the plant in October. Brynwood outlined its views in a written statement: "By refusing to compromise and insisting on maintaining a high labor cost structure, the union leadership has ensured that the jobs that they were trying to protect would eventually disappear from the Bronx forever."

NEXT: Hartmarx, Des Plaines and Rock Island, Ill.
Last updated July 24 2009: 11:38 AM ET
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