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 PITTSBURGH, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers of America (USWA), saying it had done everything it could to save the Moonlight Mushrooms Inc. farm in Worthington, Pa., has asked Acting Gov. Mark Singel and U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.) to make one more attempt to keep the facility in operation.
 In letters to Singel and Wofford, George Becker, USWA International vice president/administration, said: "The situation has reached flash point. Barring an unforeseen development, we will soon lose 1,000 jobs. The effect on the workers, their families and their communities will be devastating.
 "All of the union's attempts to resolve this dispute -- including an offer to accept cuts of $4,000 per year per worker -- have been stymied by the company's absolute refusal to bargain. Instead, it has issued one ultimatum after another, all of which have been soundly rejected by the workers.
 "I am afraid that only outside intervention can restore rationality to this process."
 Becker asked Singel and Wofford "once again to use your good offices in what may be our last chance to preserve this operation" by contacting Dennis Zensen, the chairman of Sylvan Food Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SYLN), Moonlight's parent, and "convey to him the urgency of the situation, and the absolute necessity for face-to-face collective bargaining. That is the only way we can reach a mutually satisfactory understanding.
 "The union is ready and willing to negotiate at any time," Becker said.
 According to the union, although the contract between Moonlight Mushrooms Inc. and Local 8025 of the USWA does not expire until Aug. 1, 1994, the company, claiming financial difficulties, asked the local earlier this year to re-open the agreement. Rather than negotiate, however, it made a unilateral demand of the workers: accept wage and benefit cuts of $5,000 per worker per year -- or about $5 million -- or the facility would close, the union said.
 The union said before the workers even had a chance to vote, the company announced it would end production between Nov. 2 and Jan. 31. The workers rejected the threat and the ultimatum by a vote of 618-169 on Oct. 15.
 On Nov. 1, Moonlight management wavered and said it would begin an immediate shutdown of the farm unless the union agreed to a second vote on a slightly altered company proposal, the union said.
 The members rejected that demand on Nov. 3 by a vote of 516 to 264.
 On Nov. 12, the union announced it had offered Moonlight concessions of more than $4,000 per worker per year -- or more than $4 million -- to stay in operation. The company did not accept the offer.
 At that time, Becker said the union proposal, combined with pledges from assistance from the state, Armstrong County and Moonlight suppliers, was enough to keep the company competitive.
 In addition to the union's offer of more than $4 million a year, the state, through Singel, had promised $300,000 a year in financial aid for three years, a total of $900,000; the county offered assistance of $30,000 a year for up to five years; and hay farmers who supply the facility said they would cut their prices by $400,000.
 The company muddied the situation even further on Nov. 12 when it said it had received an offer from Baljit Nanda, which it identified as owner of K&G Foods Inc. of Englewood, Colorado, to buy the Worthington facilities, the union said. As a condition of the purchase, Nanda demanded even deeper wage and benefit cuts than Moonlight had proposed; elimination of union protection for the workers; reduction of the work force, and the right to pick and choose who would be hired.
 Moonlight's demands included a five-year contract with no wage increases; a revised bonus system; elimination of overtime pay, shift differentials, seven holidays, two weeks of vacation for senior employees and the dental insurance plan; an increase in worker contributions for health care premiums from the current $78 a month to $138 a month, with workers to pay all future premium increases; increases in workers' out-of-pocket costs for medical care; a freeze in the pension plan; and elimination of health care benefits for future retirees.
 In exchange, the workers would have received a 15 percent equity in Moonlight if it were to become profitable for two consecutive quarters.
 -0- 11/16/93
 /CONTACT: Tony Rainaldi, director, of USWA District 20, 412-869-3933; Pete Connor, president, of USWA Local 8025, 412-445-2158 or 412-297-5118; or USWA Communications Department, 412-562-2442/

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

KC -- PG005 -- 5035 11/16/93 11:31 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 16, 1993

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