The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 23           July 7, 2003  
Strike at Midwest dairy
defends union power
OMAHA, Nebraska—“Our brothers and sisters at Local 41 in Kansas City, Missouri; Local 238 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Local 387 in Des Moines, Iowa, stood with us to help us win,” said Kim Quick, Teamsters Local 554 president. “Local 41 began a solidarity strike after picket lines were extended to the Kansas City plant. Local 238 in Iowa City put the dairy there on 24-hour notice that they would join the strike.”

Two hundred workers, organized by Teamsters Local 554, struck Roberts Dairy here June 5. Pickets then spread to Roberts facilities in Lincoln, West Point, Grand Island and Norfolk, Nebraska; Salina, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri. The dairy workers’ contract expired February 14, and an extension expired June 2.

After two days, a tentative agreement was reached that will boost wages, pensions, and establish common contract expiration dates at all Roberts Dairy plants. The agreement will last four and a half years, putting the Teamsters Dairy Division in a position to negotiate a master contract in 2007, covering all four plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines and Iowa City, Iowa; and Kansas City, Missouri.

The tentative agreement also protects workers who had recently been hired and were not yet members of the union at the time of the strike from being punished for participating in the walkout.

The company said the union asked for a four-year contract and Roberts offered a six-year contract. “A four-year agreement would result in a common expiration date of the contracts at all Roberts Dairy locations, and leave the company vulnerable to a company-wide disruption of business in the future,” read a company statement.

Union officials said the company started negotiating directly with individual workers, threatened and intimidated employees, and immediately hired scabs and had them ride along with Teamsters members.

In one case, a Local 554 steward received a three-day suspension before the strike began for leaving a scab behind. “Our members rallied behind the steward, Kenny Busse, after the company issued him the suspension,” Quick said.  
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