Just Born Inc. employees began a strike Wednesday at the Bethlehem plant that manufactures Peeps marshmallow candy, the employees' union, Local 6 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers announced. The company had already shipped its Halloween candy and most of its Christmas merchandise, but was gearing up for shipments for Valentine's Day, a spokeswoman said.

The union, with its headquarters in Horsham, said the plant's 400 workers went on strike after the company proposed eliminating the workers' pension plan, offering inadequate wage increases and increasing worker contributions to health care.

"The primary barrier to an agreement is the company's proposal to have future hires participate in a healthy 401K rather than the unsustainable multi-employer pension plan," company spokesman Matt Pye said in a statement.

The union asked its members nationwide to boycott the company's products, which include Mike and Ike, Teenee Beanee jelly beans, Hot Tamales and Goldenberg's Peanut Chews. Union members at the Goldenberg plant in Philadelphia are not on strike.

The union said Just Born, a privately-held, family-owned company, has annual sales of $230 million.

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