There has been quite a lot of news related to our Just Born family during the past week, and we thought it would be beneficial to take a moment to more fully share our thoughts as owners of the Company. Since the day Sam Born (Ross’ grandfather) first opened a small factory in Brooklyn, New York in 1923, and later joined by brothers-in-law, Jack and Irv Shaffer (David’s dad and uncle), they believed in a culture built on respect – which meant taking care of their associates and giving back to the community. The business grew and the Just Born family planted roots in Bethlehem in 1932. Over the past 84 years as a Bethlehem-based business, we continue to believe in the importance of caring for all of our people – and the community.
Our dedicated and talented workforce has enabled us to grow our brands and become the 9th largest confectionery company in the U.S. Although size is important in today’s ever-increasingly competitive retail environment, we have never forgotten that respect is core to who we are. Our Company vision, internal rallying cry and source of both pride and inspiration is to become the most respected confectionery company in the world.
The primary disagreement between Just Born and BCTGM Union Local #6 is the multi-employer pension plan – a defined benefit plan which is controlled by a Board of Trustees that is chaired by the President of the Union and to which Just Born pays a negotiated amount – an hourly rate for all those employed. For some time, we have been concerned about the long term viability of this plan. This was confirmed in a letter from the Pension Fund to its members citing the plan’s “critical and declining” status. In fact, the plan reported assets of $5 billion compared with liabilities of $8 billion and projected insolvency within 14 years. This is despite the fact that every year since 2012, Just Born, and the other employers contributing to this plan, have been forced to pay significant, non-negotiated surcharges.
Our proposal – to have existing associates remain in the current pension plan and to have future hires participate in a 401(k) plan – provides a respectful path that honors our current associates’ existing benefits, and provides a sustainable retirement benefit for our future hires.
We were, and still are, interested in continuing to negotiate with the union leadership, but they decided to call a strike instead and have not requested a return to the bargaining table. We continue to make clear to all those associates who are on strike that we have work available for those who wish to come back. And, as for those replacement workers who have been or who will be hired, they will receive the same pay rate as our new hires did before the strike happened.
We believe we are part of a larger whole which includes our families, our organization, and the community of neighborhoods in which we work and live and to whom we bear responsibility and loyalty. For the good of all, we believe our current proposal is fair and equitable, reflecting our care for our valued associates – and our desire to sustain our business and continue be a pillar in the Lehigh Valley community for many years.
Ross Born and David Shaffer
Co-CEOs Just Born Quality Confections