Another effort to help workers

Support for local Carriage House employees as they move forward facing the plant’s closing is being sought.

In addition to the public rally scheduled for May 29 at 5 p.m. in Barker Common in downtown Fredonia, a letter showing support is being circulated in the business community.

The letter is addressed to Colleen Batcheler, executive vice president and general counsel of ConAgra Foods in Omaha, Neb. Letter signers will request ConAgra do three things.

“Maintain some portion of its operations in the community; provide a fair severance package to the people who have given their lives to this plant that will allow them to maintain a decent life in our community and allow them time to look for employment; and allow the sale of the unused facilities to any new prospective buyers without any strings attached so our community will have a fighting chance to maintain good local jobs.”

Batcheler is no stranger to Fredonia, graduating from SUNY Fredonia with a B.A., magna cum laude, in Political Science before getting a law degree from Case Western Reserve University.

According to ConAgra, Batcheler was named executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for the company in 2009, overseeing all legal activity for the company.

She joined ConAgra Foods in June 2006 as vice president and chief securities counsel, and, in September 2006, added corporate secretary responsibilities. She was then promoted to senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary in 2008.

“As a student at SUNY Fredonia during a tumultuous period with many plant closings in our region, we know that you understand what this closing will mean to us better than any ConAgra executive,” the letter states. “Our country needs companies committed to supporting the workers and communities that have worked tirelessly for their success.

“You recently gave this advice to college grads in Omaha: ‘Know and live your values; work with people and organizations that you’re proud to be associated with.’

The letter concludes by asking Batcheler to “ensure that ConAgra lives up to its corporate social responsibilities and acts on this issue in a manner you can be proud of. Please negotiate a fair transition agreement that offers dignity and respect to your employees and new opportunities to our community.”

The Western New York Area Labor Federation, part of the AFL-CIO, has put out the form letter.

Tom Dickerson is the president of SEIU Local 266 NCFO, the union representing Carriage House workers which is affiliated with the WNYALF.

“Those are the three things we are asking for them to do,” Dickerson said of the letter’s requests. “The rally is just to get the whole community out because it affects everyone.”

Whether ConAgra responds to the Carriage House workers and supporters requests remains to be seen.

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