Letter from Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers, International Union, AFL-CIO-CLC
Local 36G on strike against Al Cohen’s Bakery
Earlier this year, things took an unexpected down turn for the five members of BCTGM Local 36G employed by Al Cohen’s Bakery, and on June 6th, 2013, those members went on strike against Al Cohen’s Bakery, located at 1132 Broadway Street, Buffalo, NY 14212.
During contract negotiations, the owners of the Bakery demanded concessions from the bargaining unit employees. The demands were not for relief due to the business not doing well, but on the contrary, the bakery is very busy supplying their customers. On the first day of negotiations when both parties met to exchange proposals, the owners told the Union: (1) they are no longer going to provide Employee Health Care; (2) demanded back Veteran’s Day (the day all Americans pay their respect to the people who have served and are serving in the Armed Forces); and Easter (the most sacred day in Christianity); (3) withdraw from the B&C Pension Fund, and no longer contribute toward members’ pension; (4) increase the number of hours to qualify for vacations and personal sick days; and (5) keep the employee’s average wage below industry standards.
Tom Bingler, Business Representative for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union AFL–CIO-CLC, Local 36G, said “At no time leading up to these negotiations did the owners imply the business was in financial difficulty. They have said on several occasions that they want to get away from the Union, and do not want their employees represented by a Union contract.” Bingler feels the owners are thinking that by forcing unreasonable concessions, it would make working at the Bakery worthless and members would look for jobs elsewhere.
The Bakery was sold approximately nineteen years ago when the Al Cohen’s Bakery baked many fresh goods on a daily basis and sold them in the store in front of the Bakery on Broadway. Today, the facility mixes, packs and freezes dough products that are then sold to many of the largest well known supermarkets, amusements parks, renowned pizzerias as well as mom and pop pizza and sub shops in the area. The process is unique by today’s standards because it has remained the same, made in traditional fashion by skilled artisan’s that have learned these skills over many years of training and being on the job. Bingler said that between the five bargaining unit members, their combined years working at the Bakery total ninety five years. Two of the members have worked at the Bakery longer than the current owners have owned the Bakery. Last year, Local 36G presented one member with a forty year membership service pin and certificate. This member has worked all of those years at the same facility.
So the next time you DASH to the market or go to your TOPS grocery store, or pizzeria, ask the manager of the store if they use any products from Al Cohen’s. Tell the manager that there is a strike going on at the bakery and that you support the workers on strike. Also mention that you’re concerned the product is being made by temporary workers and not by the true artisans walking the picket line, placing the product’s consistency and quality at risk.
If you get a moment, stop by the picket line and show your support for the guys or beep your horn when driving by. Call the owners of the bakery (716-892-8149) to tell them that you support the strike, and will not buy their products until the workers are back to work making the products with fair wages and benefits.