Golden Guernsey union denies company allegations

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:25 pm

The union that represented workers at the now-shuttered Golden Guernsey milk bottling facility in Waukesha says it tried to cooperate with the owners of the company to reduce costs, but to no avail.

The plant, owned by Los Angeles private equity firm OpenGate Capital LLC, was suddenly closed on Jan. 5, leaving 100 people out of work. Golden Guernsey filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last week in Delaware.

In a press release this week, OpenGate said it had made “vigorous efforts to reduce its expenses” with suppliers, vendors and the labor union, but its efforts were rejected.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 695, the Madison-based union representing workers at Golden Guernsey, disputed the company’s claim.

“We presented an insurance plan that mirrored the current level of benefits on both labor and management in that facility and provided a savings of approximately $180,000,” said Gene Gowey, Local 695 recording secretary. “It didn’t go anywhere. It could have gone into effect as early as Nov. 1.”

The union also sent a letter to OpenGate in early August to let management know the union was willing to sit down and discuss the viability of the plant. The union received no response, Gowey said.

Local 695 worked with OpenGate to adjust employee hours, but was never asked to negotiate its labor contract, he said.
OpenGate acquired Golden Guernsey in 2011 from Dean Foods, which was ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to sell the business to satisfy antitrust concerns.

OpenGate inherited a legacy union contract and an exclusive fixed-price milk supply agreement, but was unable to reduce its expenses enough to achieve financial viability, OpenGate said in the release.

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