Lockout At Madelaine Chocolate Ends With Agreement
By Howard Schwach
"[We] have agreed to end the lockout of union employees as of May 18," Avi Borenstein, an attorney for the owners said on Monday. "To ensure a smooth transition, employees from various parts of he factory will be brought back in phases between now and Memorial Day as various parts of the plant become operational."
The plant, which makes and markets more than 20 million pounds of chocolate under its own name as well as for major national candy brands, is located at 96-03 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Park. Its workers have been locked out since Monday, May 7 when workers at lunch were instructed to turn in their smocks, empty their lockers and leave the building immediately.
Management claimed that it had to institute the lockout to protect its valuable machinery from sabotage and to protect its bargaining position and keep the union from a series of crippling strikes after the union members turned down a contract offer in late April.
The sticking point, according to those close to the labor dispute was the amount of time guaranteed to negotiating without the possibility of a strike.
Management wanted one year of guaranteed labor peace. The union thought that a year was too long and wanted a shorter period of time.
The new agreement is for nine months.
Both union officials and management expressed satisfaction over the end of the lockout and the beginning of negotiations under a federal mediator.
"We're pleased that we could reach an agreement to put our people back to work," Jim Gangle, a Business Manager with Local 1222 of the UPSEU. "We came to a compromise on the time limit and we are hopeful that this will come to an agreement.
We wanted the federal mediator brought in and we got that for our workers."
"The owners of the company are delighted that an agreement was reached to enable the employees to return to work and look forward to welcoming them back.
Ongoing negotiations will be held with union representatives to work out the details of mutually agreeable terms for an new contract that will be accepted by the rank and file."
More than 500 workers were impacted by the lockout.