Power to the Peep-le: Union workers claim a sweet win over old man ’mallow

Marshmallow makers at a Pennsylvania Peeps factory won a court decision that will force their company Just Born, to honor their pension promises (while they still can).


April 30, 2018

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a group of marginalized marshmallow Peeps makers who accused their employer, Just Born Quality Confections, of illegally withholding pensions from new workers.

The union’s $60m+ victory over the not-so-sweet candy maker is an increasingly uncommon win for organized labor, which is steadily losing ground as employers opt for short-term benefits.

Why don’t we normally hear a peep about unions?

The percentage of American workers in unions hit the lowest point of all time in 2016 — in 1983, 1 in 5 Americans was in a union, but today it’s only 1 in 10.

Though, that only partly explains  it — the other reason is that most unions don’t have enough power to strike like they used to. Over the past 25 years, the number of strikes decreased by 87% — dropping 6x faster than union membership.

So, why the bold move?

The Mike and Ike and Hot Tamale-makers — members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers union — voted unanimously to strike after Just Born eliminated pensions for new employees in an effort to win back their retirement benefits.

So is the future full of marshmallows, strikes, and pensions?

Unfortunately for organized laborers and pensioners, the challenges of supporting pensions that afflict Just Born exist across the country.

As freelance work becomes more common and employees hop from employer to employer, companies have very little incentive to contribute money toward long-term benefits — preferring to offer 401(k)s over pensions, stock options over benefits, and bonuses over raises.

So don’t let that sugar rush get to your head — small strikes may hold companies accountable to existing pension promises in the short run, but pensions are past their prime.

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