Oscar Mayer Local 538 Union

United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 538, which represents Oscar Mayer employees, plan to protest Thursday. Union president Doug Leikness said the company is not following its closing contract, though Kraft Heinz disagrees. 

PHOTO BY BEN BREWER

Employees at the Oscar Mayer plant on Madison's north side are planning a rally Thursday to protest what they allege are contractual violations by parent company Kraft Heinz.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 538 President Doug Leikness said the company eliminated senior positions ahead of others with fewer years at the plant, including a union steward. Leikness said Kraft Heinz’s agreement with the union states that the company must eliminate junior employees first, unless senior employees volunteer to leave.

“We have been getting more and more frustrated with the company,” Leikness said. “They’ve been dogging us on answering grievances, violating contractual rights.”

The 72-acre Oscar Mayer headquarters facility at 910 Mayer Ave. is expected to close July 31. Only 125 employees are left, Kraft Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said.

Mullen said in a statement that Kraft Heinz has followed and will continue to follow the closing agreement.

“Honoring the terms of this agreement is a top priority so that our employees are treated fairly and with complete regard for their safety,” Mullen said. “We continue to come to the table with solutions to resolve any areas of disagreement and we remain committed to following the established procedures that ensure our employees are treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

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Leikness said the rally is scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. He invited community members to engage in a “peaceful assembly” at the UFCW Local 538 office, 2228 Myrtle St.

“We’re asking supporters of Local 538, active workers and members to assemble in front of the plant for an hour for the purpose of … putting some pressure on the company to bargain with us,” Leikness said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.