augusta free press news

Voting in drive to unionize Stuarts Draft Hershey plant begins this week

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Hershey had a record year of production and profitability in 2021. Employees at its Stuarts Draft plant would like to see some of the rewards for their labor to that end.

Instead, as one worker told The Guardian, they got T-shirts.

It’s no wonder that a group of employees is leading an effort to unionize, with ballots in the mail-in election to join the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union set to go in the mail on Thursday.

The drive is being led, according to the story in The Guardian, by a group of older employees nearing retirement, who are hoping that their legacy can be improved pay, benefits and working conditions for younger workers at the Augusta County plant, which has been in operation since 1982 and employs nearly 1,300 people.

“When you work seven days a week and you don’t know when you’re getting a day off, you’re just living so you can go to work,” one worker told The Guardian. “We’re not the happy place to work that you would think a chocolate plant would be right now.”

The company has responded to the drive with tactics straight out of Corporate America’s union-busting playbook, subjecting workers to captive-audience meetings led by the Labor Relations Institute, which has launched an anti-union website, and by making “union-free” signs to distribute throughout the community.

The union drive faces a potentially huge political hurdle. Augusta County is bright red Republican in its voting history – giving Glenn Youngkin 77.9 percent of the vote in the November gubernatorial election, and Donald Trump 72.6 percent in the 2020 presidential election.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Youngkin and Trump voters aren’t likely to also be union voters.

But then, maybe the T-shirts didn’t go over as well as the higher-ups might have expected.

“That kind of stuff just really bothers people, to know that all that profit is generated by us and here’s a T-shirt,” the worker told The Guardian. “I’d like more compensation for the profits we generate.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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