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Workers upset over credit union’s eviction from Ft. Madison plant

The Conagra Brands plant in Ft. Madison.
Will Buss
The Conagra Brands plant in Ft. Madison.

Employees at the Conagra Brands food manufacturing plant in Ft. Madison are not happy the company is forcing an on-site credit union to leave.

The company has informed workers that Fox Valley Credit Union is being evicted from the plant’s property.

A statement released by company spokesman Dan Hare reads, “We informed employees that as of July 18, there will no longer be a credit union at the facility. We provided 90 days advance notice to the credit union so they can determine how they will operate in the future.”

The company has not disclosed any further details.

“We all feel like this is very much a personal attack,” employee Mike Davidson said.

Davidson is one of about the 550 employees at Conagra Brands’ Ft. Madison plant who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 617. Davidson, who lives in Hamilton, Illinois, said when the workers asked the company why the credit union was being asked to leave the plant, the company cited public safety but would not elaborate.

“Our union president has reached out to corporate, and we're just not getting any replies from them other than we've been told it's kind of a security issue,” he said.

Union president Robert Cale said union members are surprised and upset by the company’s decision. He said that the plant is required to negotiate with union members before making these kinds of decisions.

“There's nothing in our contract that says that they have to keep (the credit union) there, but if they want something established and there's a change, they have to sit down with the union and negotiate that change in good faith,” Cale said.

“And so far, they refused to do that.”

Davidson added, “We just feel like the company is really failing us in terms of sitting down and having a conversation with us.”

Cale said the credit union has been housed within a small office at the plant for the past 50 years. He also said the convenient location has helped many employees conduct their banking needs.

“It doesn't cost the company anything to have it there,” he said.

“Our members work a lot of unpredictable hours, a lot of 12-hour days, when you may have to be ready at the end of the day, and then they tell you you're going to have to stay four more hours.

“So when you have that, it makes just their life’s basic tasks very difficult. When you have banking there on site, where you can make transactions and do those things, whether it be signing loan documents or do whatever, it's so valuable to us.”

Conagra Brands is the maker of Slim Jim, Swiss Miss, Reddi Wip, Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Bird’s Eye and Orville Redenbacher food brands.

Dial Corp. initially opened the Ft. Madison plant, which is located on Henry Ladyn Drive, in 1972. Pinnacle Foods purchased the property in 2006. Conagra Brands acquired the plant in five years ago.

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