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Former Moo & Oink Workers Fighting To Get Unpaid Benefits

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Former employees of Moo & Oink meat markets have been fighting to force the chain to pay them pension and health benefits they are still owed from the months before Moo & Oink stores started closing.

As CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports, two Moo & Oink stores have already closed and the others could face the same fate due to bankruptcy.

Some former employees said that many benefits haven't been paid in recent months.

"We're like a big happy family and this was a big ... big shock to us," former Moo & Oink worker Mary Steele said Tuesday, standing with more than 10 of her former co-workers.

What Steele said she finds shocking was that, after nearly 30 years of working for Moo & Oink, the company not only went bankrupt, but health benefits, vacation pay, pension contributions and automatic union dues weren't paid for employees in the months before the grocery chain closed two of its stores.

"Some of the employees … we have our own medical center and, when they went there, they were turned away, because their benefits was not paid," Steele said. "We did not do anything to be in this predicament and we did not do anything to be treated this bad."

The assignee for the benefit of creditors, Silverman Consulting, said that a judge has now approved payments for employee health benefits, pension contributions, vacation pay and union dues.

"The first thing was that they worked it out and everybody got their vacation pay. They were trying to hold that back," said former employee Gary Harris.

Wallace Simms & Associates has put together an acquisition group, with the hope of purchasing Moo & Oink. Simms said he wants to keep the four stores from becoming white elephants in the African-American communities they once served and keep give the employees their jobs back.

Moo & Oink customer J.Q. Darden said, "I'm personally inconvenienced, because I can't shop here anymore."

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition will join Moo & Oink employees and customers on Wendesday as they picket in front of the Stony Island store between noon and 2 p.m.

They said they want to make sure they get what's owed to them, like severance pay. At 3 p.m. Wednesday, they'll all go to bankruptcy court as unsecured creditors to see where the case stands.

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