When Bimbo Bakery in Hazleton closed in 2019, nearly 120 workers found themselves out of work. Bimbo had shifted the production of bread and rolls to a facility in Lehigh Valley. Months later, on March 25th Hank McKay, president of BCTGM Local 6, received a phone call from the company.
“We want to get the Hazleton plant up and running in 10 days. Can you help us?”
At first, McKay was skeptical. How are we going to do this?
But then he picked up the phone and started calling. On Saturday, April 4, the day before Easter, 70 union members returned to the Hazleton plant, producing bread and rolls to feed the community.
“I can’t believe we pulled this off. It’s a good story, surrounded by a bunch of bad stories. For these folks, it’s a good thing because some of them were about to run out of unemployment.” Many of the returning members had been unable to find good jobs since the plant closed.
The positive dialogue between the union and the company is paying off. The plant is running better than it ever did. Workers are back to making living wages with health insurance. Safety precautions, like physical distancing and personal protective equipment, are being taken to ensure a safe and healthy environment. And most importantly, at this critical time, bread is making its way to the families who need it.
The BCTGM is working with unionized companies around the country to gather donations for a nationwide food relief campaign to aid those workers hardest hit by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. BCTGM members work for some of America’s largest and well-known food manufacturers producing bread, cereal, cookies, snacks, and more.
The union is working with employers like Bimbo Bakery and Kelloggs to donate food to distribution areas, like the PA Joint Board Workers’ United’s weekly food distribution at the Philadelphia Council, AFL-CIO building in the City of Brotherly Love. This is the solidarity that reaches deeply into communities across the Commonwealth, in service of our shared unity as brothers and sisters.