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Buona Beef settles labor dispute that led to protest, battery charges

Representatives from Buona Beef said Friday they have settled a two-week-long labor dispute by agreeing to use union contractors and workers on future construction projects.

"We respect union workers and their families, and this agreement signals the continuation of our labor-friendly practices," Joe Buonavolanto Jr., CEO of Buona, said in a statement.

The Buona representatives met with Ralph Affrunti, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council, to settle the dispute.

"Now that this is settled, we encourage all union members and supporters to recognize Buona as a labor-friendly business that is an asset to Chicagoland," Affrunti said.

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 had been protesting Buona's alleged use of low-wage workers to build its new locations throughout the Chicago area. On Aug. 14, that protest resulted in a confrontation at the Berwyn restaurant between two members of the family that owns Buona Beef and a pair of protestors, leading to battery charges, according to police documents.

The documents were provided Thursday by the Berwyn Police Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Chicago Tribune.

Joseph J. Buonavolanto and Jim Buonavolanto were each charged with battery, according to the police report. Jim Buonavolanto, vice president of operations, was charged with two counts of battery, according to the report, for allegedly spraying the protesters with a garden hose. A video provided by the union shows Buonavolanto rinsing down the parking lot and getting a protester's feet wet. Buona Beef spokesman John Gill said the parking lot was being cleaned because the protesters' generator, used to blow up a giant rat balloon, spilled gasoline.

Joseph Buonavolanto, the company's facilities manager, was charged with one count of battery, according to the police report, for allegedly striking the hand of a protester who was filming Jim Buonavolanto as he removed a protest sign. Union spokesman Ed Maher said the sign read, "Shame on Buona Beef for using Rat Contractors."

Buona Beef has nearly 20 locations throughout Chicagoland. Last week, a spokeswoman added in a statement that the family expressed "sincere apologies" for the incident.

"Members of our family did not uphold our values when responding to a union demonstration that disrupted our business," according to the statement. "What started out as a peaceful discussion turned into an unprofessional exchange. This was an isolated incident that occurred in the heat of the moment. It is not representative of the way our family does business. We respect the rights of unions, union members, their families, and all of our customers whom we have had the pleasure of serving for many years in the Chicagoland area."

Buona Beef spokeswoman Laurie Cairns said in an email that the Buonavolantos "were released with no bail after the Aug. 14 incident as they are reputable business people active in the community for 35+ years."

The police report, however, shows bail was set at $1,000.

The Buonavolantos are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 20.

sbomkamp@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @SamWillTravel

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