FREDONIA - After two days of bargaining NCFO Chapter 266 announced Thursday morning that it reached agreement with ConAgra on Wednesday evening over the impact of the scheduled closing of the Carriage House facilities in Fredonia by the end of this year.
"We still strongly believe that the closing of this profitable plant was unwise, unnecessary and cold, but I am glad to report that we have achieved two of the three goals of our campaign for dignity and justice," said Chapter 266 President Tom Dickerson. "There is a fair severance package for our 425 members and their families and ConAgra has agreed to allow the sale of the Dunkirk and Fredonia factories without restrictions.
Previously, the company had insisted that the factories could not be purchased by another firm going into food production. This reversal - along with a $50,000 New York state grant from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fund a feasibility study for returning the facilities to productive use - makes it more likely that good jobs can return to the area soon.
Union officials credited the outpouring of support from local business, civic, labor religious and political leaders, culminating in a May 29 rally in Fredonia's Barker Common, with making the difference.
Moreover, it led to a greatly enhanced severance package.
"I've seen what they gave after other plant closings were announced and this one is much, much better and would not have been offered without the campaign and the rally," added Dickerson.
"There are numerous people to thank because this community and Chautauqua County really came together on this," Dickerson explained. "The Western New York Area Labor Federation headed by Richard Lipsitz, and especially Whitney Yax who pulled everything together for us, and the help we got from other unions and from elected officials like Fredonia Mayor Steve Keefe, Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, Congressman Tom Reed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a big difference."
Reed weighed in on the agreement the union and ConAgra reached.
"The entire community deserves credit for its hard work and complete dedication in pushing ConAgra to give each of their employees a fair severance package. First and foremost, we made caring for employees and their families our immediate priority and are extremely pleased our efforts paid off in favor of the employees," he stated. "The work continues now to find a buyer and restore those jobs in the Chautauqua County community as soon as possible. The deal reached makes this next goal much more reachable with ConAgra's commitment to selling the property without any restrictions. With our continued support, the support of local and state representatives and the union, Chautauqua County will continue to be a great place to work, live and raise a family."
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer issued a statement on the news that there will be no restrictions on the sale of ConAgra's food processing facilities in Dunkirk and Fredonia:
"I continue to be extremely disappointed by ConAgra's decision to close the facilities in Fredonia and Dunkirk, but with the announcement that there will be no sale restrictions on these facilities, we can now move immediately to identifying a new company to come on board. Conversations have already begun, and I will be working tirelessly with local leaders to have a new company operating and hiring workers in these facilities as soon as possible."