Attention all Peeps lovers: The neon-colored marshmallow birds and bunnies you decapitate every Easter may be in short supply next year.
Last week, 400 employees at the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania factory that manufactures Peeps, Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales went on strike. Workers are protesting new wage and benefits proposals from their employer, Just Born Quality Confections.
Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 6 say Just Born proposed eliminating workers’ pension plans in favor of a 401(k), Philly.com reports. The company says they suggested phasing the pension plan out slowly: Just Born would continue contributing to current associates’ pensions, but new hires would enroll in a 401(k) plan. The union says Just Born also proposed upping employee healthcare contributions and didn’t offer sufficient wage increases.
So the union workers said, “Boy, bye” to Just Born’s offer and walked off the job.
With 400 of Just Born’s 600 employees on strike, the outlook for Peeps is uncertain. This year’s supply is safe: Halloween and Christmas Peeps have already been produced, and Halloween shipments have already gone out. But what will happen to next year’s Easter supply?
Just Born Package handler Debbie Harden told local newspaper The Morning Call that employees timed their strike to coincide with the beginning of Easter orders.
“So we held out [until now], because it kind of hits them the hardest,” Harden said. “They need us more than they think.”
Just Born vice president of corporate affairs Matt Pye said the company is “fully committed” to working toward a fair agreement with the union. However, Pittsburgh’s WTAE reports that Just Born has already started hiring replacement workers to meet customer demand.
“Easter is our big season; we produce for Easter year-round,” Pye told The Morning Call. “At some point, it will become a concern.”
Union workers say they’re committed to strike “as long as it takes.” Their slogan? “No pension, no Peeps.”
Luckily, if you do decide to stockpile Peeps in anticipation of a shortage, the gelatinous chicks and bunnies are practically indestructible. We left a package open for an entire year and the candies were still sort of edible. But here’s hoping you don’t have to break out dusty pumpkin spice Peeps next Easter.
This article has been updated with additional information about Just Born’s 401(k) plan.