#USWMade: Make it a Union-Made Pasta Night

Who They Are: Local 9555
Where They Are: Danville, Va.
What They Do: Produce pasta, sauce and cheese for Buitoni Foods Co.

For USW members looking to extend their union solidarity to their family dinner table, Buitoni pastas and sauces might be one of the most popular – and tastiest –ways to do so.

Nikia Watkins and her fellow members of Local 9555 in Danville, Va., work for Buitoni Foods Co., a company that traces its origins to Italy in 1827 and produces a wide variety of refrigerated pastas, sauces and cheeses sold in grocery stores around the world.

Watkins, the local president, has worked at the factory for 19 years. She said she and her co-workers take pride in being part of an organization that is dedicated to making sure the quality of their products is second to none.

“It makes me feel good that the quality of the food that we’re making is the best that it can be,” said Watkins, who served as local recording secretary before her term as president began last year.

It also is a good feeling, Watkins said, to know that she and her 350 fellow Local 9555 members have the strength and solidarity of the entire USW behind them on the job.

“The union gives us a voice,” she said. “That’s our strength.”

It also helps to have other unions, including large USW locals, in the region, she said. Just down the road from the Buitoni plant, 1,850 members work at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant, Danville’s largest employer. 

Watkins’ reasons for becoming a USW leader were simple. “I just want to make sure we have fairness and consistency all across the board,” she said.

That consistency extends from the bargaining table to the food that members send out the door of the factory to store shelves. In addition to the popular line of Italian cuisine, USW members in Danville – for the next few months at least – also make Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough.

In June, however, Nestle, the former owner of the Buitoni line, will begin producing the cookie dough elsewhere. Watkins and her co-workers to focus solely on rolling out the best pasta products they possibly can.

“We’re just like everyone else,” Watkins said. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything right.”

#USWMade is a feature focusing on products made by USW members that consumers can purchase in stores or online. Follow the #USWMade hashtag on social media and check out the #USWMade playlist on YouTube to learn about other products made by USW members. If your local makes a product that you would like to feature in USW@Work, send an email to: editor@usw.org.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of USW@Work. Click here to read that issue as a PDF.

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