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 WORTHINGTON, Pa., Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) announced today that it had offered Moonlight Mushrooms Inc. concessions of more than $4,000 per year per worker -- or more than $4 million. Combined with aid from the state, county and area suppliers, the union said its offer is more than enough to keep the company's farm here in operation.
 "Based on Moonlight's own numbers, the union's new offer, along with the other assistance that has been pledged, provides the help the company says it needs to be competitive," said George F. Becker, USWA International vice president/administration.
 Becker made the offer Thursday to Dennis Zensen, chairman of Sylvan Foods Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: SYLN), the parent of Moonlight Mushrooms. He said Zensen had not accepted the offer. The union had previously proposed cuts of $2,500 per worker, which the company rejected.
 As the union made its newest proposal, Moonlight announced an offer from a Colorado firm to buy the mushroom farm, a move Becker described as a thinly-veiled attempt to eliminate union representation.
 The union has scheduled an information meeting of the 1,000 members of USWA Local 8025 for 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, at the Butler Intermediate School to discuss the new offer and the purchase proposal.
 The USWA said that Moonlight Mushrooms, claiming financial problems, had been demanding concessions of $5,000 in wages and benefits in a new, five-year contract to replace the current agreement, which expires Aug. 1, 1994. The union said that members of USWA Local 8025 twice spurned the demands by overwhelming votes.
 In addition to the union's offer of more than $4 million a year, the state, through acting Gov. Mark Singel, has promised $300,000 a year in financial aid for three years, a total of $900,000; the county has offered assistance of $30,000 a year for up to five years; and hay farmers who supply the facility have said they will cut their prices by $400,000.
 "We've tried to accommodate the company in every way possible," Becker said. "We want it to be profitable. We want to preserve our members' jobs. We want to maintain the vitality of their communities and of Armstrong County. We have demonstrated our good faith by first offering $2,500 per worker per year, and now increasing that to more than $4,000 per year.
 "Even the $2,500 is a huge amount for workers who -- according to the company's own figures -- are now earning an average of only $20,000 a year -- and that includes overtime, bonuses and premium pay. I want to point out that the workers have accepted concessions in the past to keep the company in operation.
 "Reasonable people would say the workers and the union have met the company more than halfway. But every time we have made a move, the company upped the ante, demanding more. Now, it has tried to confuse the issues even more by claiming to have a buyer in the wings. It has told us nothing about this company, other than to furnish us the name of one individual, apparently from India, who is supposed to be the owner."
 Moonlight identified the potential buyer only as Baljit Nanda, owner of K&G Foods Inc. of Englewood, Colo. John Alder, an attorney representing Moonlight Mushrooms, said Nanda's purchase offer included demands that went far beyond Moonlight's last proposal. For a 15 percent equity stake in the company, Moonlight had been seeking the $5,000 in wage and benefit concessions; elimination of the pension plan going forward; elimination of health care for retirees; elimination of dental care, and increases in both health care premiums and health care costs for active workers.
 Nanda's demands include all of that, but no equity in the company, plus a reduced work force; the right to pick and choose who would be hired from the current work force; elimination of severance pay; elimination of the current ban on the contracting out of work; elimination of 58 positions from the bargaining unit; elimination of side agreements to the main contract; and the hiring of part-time workers -- who would not be eligible for benefits -- which would further erode the bargaining unit.
 Furthermore, according to Alder, members of Local 8025 would be required to apply for re-employment and were given a deadline of 4 p.m. today to decide.
 Nanda's demands, absent the details on the extent of the concessions, were contained in a letter hand-delivered to Local 8025 members as they reported to work today. The letter was signed by Gary Walker, president of Moonlight Mushrooms.
 "This is simply too much to believe," Becker said. "We offer Moonlight Mushrooms a package that it cannot possibly refuse, and it replies by circumventing the union, going directly to our members and attempting to coerce them into accepting terms from a ghost buyer that are even more draconian than demands they have already rejected.
 "This is not what collective bargaining is all about. Collective bargaining requires reasonable people to reach reasonable conclusions. We are ready and willing to do our part. Moonlight Mushrooms -- and/or Baljit Nanda -- must do the same. They must stop issuing ultimatums and come to the bargaining table. There's too much at stake. Moonlight Mushrooms has twice been told emphatically by our members that they will not accept ultimatums.
 "Let's get together and resolve this dispute for the good of all concerned."
 Becker said the union and the members of Local 8025 appreciated the efforts of outside parties to keep the operation going, particularly the Armstrong County commissioners, the hay farmers, Singel, and U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.).
 "They have the best interests of the community at heart, and have put those interests ahead of all other considerations," Becker said. "Our members feel the same. I hope we can persuade Mr. Zensen or Mr. Nanda to do likewise."
 -0- 11/12/93
 /CONTACT: Tony Rainaldi, director, 412-869-3933, or Bill Hutchinson, staff representative, 412-297-5118, both of USWA District 20; or USWA Communications Department, 412-562-2442/

CO: United Steelworkers of America; Moonlight Mushrooms Inc.;
 Sylvan Foods Holdings, Inc.; K&G Foods Inc. ST: Pennsylvania IN: FOD SU:

DM -- PG008 -- 3797 11/12/93 15:22 EST
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Date:Nov 12, 1993

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