Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mushroom Plant, Union Settle 4-Year Dispute

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mushroom Plant, Union Settle 4-Year Dispute

Article excerpt

Four years after they were arrested during a lunchtime demonstration, all 24 fired Quincy Farms mushroom plant workers are back on the job.

United Farm Workers, the union representing the laborers, and Quincy Farms management quietly negotiated an agreement settling the dispute that began in March 1995. The company has insisted the negotiations remain confidential.

Bowing to pressure from religious leaders, including the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Council of Churches, and a pending legal judgment, the company finally agreed to negotiate a contract.

The dispute had attracted the attention of organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and national labor groups. Boycotts began and union pickets and sympathizers marched outside the mushroom plant and supermarkets across the South.

During the tenure of CEO Rick Lazzarini, management stood firm in its refusal to negotiate with union organizers. With Lazzarini's dismissal in January, the company made conciliatory overtures to the union, helped along by an economic downturn for the mushroom operation.

According to attorney Rob Williams of Florida Legal Services, who represented the arrested workers, all indications were that Quincy Farms would have faced significant financial penalties in a summary judgment the union expected to win. By agreeing to negotiate with the union, the company avoided a declaration of liability for its actions against the workers who demonstrated.

David Villarino, UFW spokesman, confirmed that the union filed a class action suit for unlawful discharge. …

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