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Union braves deep freeze; negotiations remain frigid

DIXON – At 11 o’clock tonight, workers at Bay Valley Foods will have been on strike for a full week.

During that time, members of Teamsters Local 722 have picketed outside the Dixon plant, in subzero temperatures, day and night.

On Wednesday, a big inflatable rat made an appearance after Bay Valley Foods called in nonunion workers to run the plant, according to Steve Mongan, the president of Teamsters Local 722, which represents employees at Bay Valley Foods and elsewhere.

Bay Valley Foods declined Wednesday to comment on negotiations.

Strikers on the picket line stay warm by keeping two small fires burning and by continually walking in front of the plant, workers outside the plant said Wednesday afternoon.

People in the community have been supportive, picketers said, by honking car horns as they drive by and by dropping off food and coffee.

The union has a warming station set up near Veterans Memorial Park, just west of the plant, Mongan said.

Most of the strikers have taken a shift on the picket line each day of the strike, they said, and shifts were being extended to 4 hours during the day and 2 hours at night.

Previously, the daytime shifts were limited to 2 hours because of the cold.

Bay Valley Foods has security personnel on site to ensure that plant stays safe and the nonunion workers are protected.

Representatives from the union and Bay Valley Foods met for several hours Tuesday, the third negotiation session since the strike started, but no progress was made on the biggest sticking point, Mongan said.

The company won’t negotiate a contract with a provision that allows workers to have a doctor’s note for an excused absence, Mongan said.

In a previous contract, the workers gave up a dozen paid sick days each year, he said, so the workers are committed to this issue and holding out.

Both sides are “firm” on their side of that issue, Mongan said, but they’ll “continue to negotiate in good faith.”

The company hasn’t presented a counteroffer to address the attendance issue, he said, but there was some movement on two “little issues.”

The union filed an unfair labor practices charge with the Peoria regional office of the National Labor Relations Board last week, Mongan said, because of the issue involving missing days with a doctor’s note.

Green Bay, Wis.-based Bay Valley Foods has operated the plant during the strike with management staff from the Dixon plant and others, according to company statements.

A 4-year contract between the union workers and Bay Valley Foods expired Dec. 28.

Mongan has been involved with several strikes before, he said, and a work stoppage is never something the union wants to do.

“Nobody wins in a strike,” he said. “That’s case closed. ... Nobody wins. And our intent is not to cost the company any money.”

A rally for the workers is slated for today at the Dixon VFW hall, Mongan said, with union members meeting at 11 a.m., followed by guest speakers at noon. Then the rally will make its way to Bay Valley Foods, 820 Palmyra St., in Dixon, to support the workers on the picket line.

The next negotiation session is set for 9:30 a.m. Friday, Mongan said.

The company says it employs 112 union workers.

Click here to see video of union workers on the picket line

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