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Article updated: 8/1/2013 9:53 PM

Workers rally outside Elk Grove Village company


Workers rallied Thursday outside Grecian Delight in Elk Grove Village to protest the company's latest contract proposal and threatening to strike if it does not change.

More than 70 workers and other members of the Chicago Federation of Labor picketed outside the Greek food distributor, located at 1201 Tonne Road.

"The message today to Grecian Delight is, 'Shame on you!'" yelled Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

Workers from the company's bakery division are unhappy with what Grecian Delight officials are proposing for their new contract.

Company representatives did not return multiple calls or an in-person request for comment.

Among the 17 proposed changes would allow management to overlook seniority when choosing who to lay off -- one of the most pressing issues for workers, said Margarito Diaz, spokesman for the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board.

Currently, if the company decides to downsize, management will first lay off temporary or new workers and then the least senior workers in a department.

However, the new proposal says that after the temps, management can lay off who it deems the worst workers, regardless of seniority.

Urbana Rodriguez, who has worked in the bakery department for 19 years, said she fears her experience would mean nothing under the proposed contract.

The company also has proposed removing a clause requiring employees to be part of the union and pay dues, formally called "union security."

"The employer will work his butt off to get people out of the union. This is just a bogus ploy," said Pat Cronin, secretary-treasurer for Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board.

Friction between the union and the company began over a year and a half ago.

In December 2011, the union sent a letter of intent to Grecian Foods asking to open negotiations on a new contract. But because letter was a day past a deadline, Diaz said, the company said the union had to continue working under its existing deal.

Shortly after, Diaz said, employees told him company officials had weekly meetings with workers to convince them to de-unionize. Rodriguez, the bakery worker, says management is "always" trying to convince employees to de-unionize.

The company agreed to open contract negotiations with the union in late April of this year, and the two have been bargaining since. The next bargaining session is Aug. 8. If the workers are still unsatisfied, Diaz said they are "ready to do whatever it takes."

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