Union strike under way at MGPI Atchison plant

by Eric Schroeder
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ATCHISON, KAS. — Workers at the MGP Ingredients, Inc. Atchison plant have been on strike since Sept. 27, following the rejection of a new two-year labor agreement. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local #74D, which consists of 148 members, opted to enact a work stoppage after talks between the company and union failed to make any progress.

The previous contract between the company and union was scheduled to expire at midnight on Aug. 31, but that contract was extended until midnight Sept. 17 to allow negotiations between both parties to continue.

"We feel the company’s new contract proposal was fair and reasonable," said Dave Rindom, vice-president of human resources at MGPI. "The single issue which led to the local’s rejection of the contract and subsequent decision to strike appears to be related to a change put forth by the company that is designed to deter attendance policy violations. This change is meant to get employees to come to work and allow on-duty employees to leave their shifts as planned. Our intent is to enable employees to maintain a quality of life that, at times, has been negatively impacted by some workers failing to come to work as scheduled. We also view the proposed change as a means of further ensuring our employees’ safety by eliminating, or significantly reducing situations which would otherwise cause them to unexpectedly extend their working hours beyond their normal shift times."

Mr. Rindom added, "Although the company has been experiencing the negative impact of adverse conditions caused mainly by record and near record high raw material costs for grain, which resulted in an $11.7 million loss in fiscal 2008, our proposal contained increased wage and benefits packages. These aspects of our proposal have not been identified as factors which led to the decision by union members to turn down the contract."

Tim Newkirk, president and chief executive officer at MGPI, stressed that the strike should not affect the company’s ability to supply its customers.

"We have measures in place to continue providing our customers with the same high quality products and high level of services on which they have come to rely," he said. "While this newest development involving our union workforce is unfortunate, I am confident in our capabilities to effectively meet our commitments to our customers through our inventories and multi-site complex."

MGPI processes specialty wheat proteins, specialty wheat starches, vital wheat gluten, commodity wheat starch, and food grade and fuel grade alcohol at the Atchison facility.

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