(Reuters) – Workers at Hershey Co’s second largest U.S. manufacturing plant voted against unionizing, even as unionization efforts have gained momentum among low-paid workers at large U.S. corporations.
The Hershey plant, located at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, has around 1,400 employees and primarily makes products with peanuts, including Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and other candy bars like Almond Joy.
Hershey in the lead up to the vote, whose counting and preliminary result were live-streamed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Thursday, created a website to state it did not want a union at the 40-year-old plant.
The website highlighted Hershey’s perceived risks associated with unionization, including compromising its ability to recruit workers. It also pointed to the plants being open when a few rivals had furloughed employees during the pandemic.
Two Hershey workers interviewed by Reuters, one of whom was recently fired after 14 years at the Virginia plant, said it was difficult to get time off work and they sometimes had to work seven days straight.
One of the workers, who requested anonymity due to potential retaliation, said forming a union was not about money and benefits but being treated with respect and dignity.
Hershey, whose two out of seven U.S. plants are unionized, also said most people who left the plant said they did so due to a lack of time-off rather than pay. It added its attendance policy “needed some work” and a team was looking at simplifying rules related to time-off and absences.
Hershey and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the result.
A few Starbucks coffee shops, however, have unionized in the past few weeks, while workers at King Soopers and Kellogg’s cereal plant have gone on strikes in recent months to secure better contracts.
(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Shailesh Kuber)