The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 2      January 17, 2011

(front page)
Iowa: Locked-out workers
snub Roquette’s new ‘offer’
Militant/Maggie Trowe
Workers locked-out by corn processor Roquette in Keokuk, Iowa, picket, January 4.

KEOKUK, Iowa—Locked out for three months by Roquette America, workers at the corn processing plant here continue to picket the company around the clock. The members of Local 48G of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) also recently declined to vote on a revised offer from the company after Roquette issued a statement to the local newspaper in an effort to divide the union.

According to the Gate City daily newspaper, Roquette spokesperson Aliza Golan stated that 240 copies of the offer were available to the membership. “The company has given the contract to union leaders, but we would like the members to review the proposal and vote on it.” The company, Golan said, “also urges its employees to speak to their union representatives to voice their opinion on this matter… . Roquette America is hopeful that the union body will ratify [the offer] and efforts can turn to getting people back to work prior to Christmas.”

“Our negotiating committee has kept us informed” of developments in talks with the company, Cindy Runge told the Militant January 4. “That’s why it was proper not to vote on the company’s offer” at a union meeting attended by more than 130 members. Runge said while Roquette gave the impression they were making a better offer, it was worse than the one the unionists rejected in September.

Runge and Tim Monical, on picket duty in “Club 48G,” the picket shack at Roquette’s main gate, said the union’s response to this lockout was far stronger than a similar battle 25 years ago. “In 1985 we didn’t have a picket line,” Monical said. Buddy Howard added, “There is more union solidarity this time.”

Monical said a few local people have crossed the picket line and some strikebreakers have been brought in by LB&F, Inc., an Ohio-based company that recruits and provides scabs to companies across the country. But many workers from the area support Local 48G because they know their bosses want to do the same thing to them.

Picketing continues despite the hardship of winter, and union members are making an effort to increase participation at the plant entrances. “If you’re sitting at home, you’re getting depressed,” Runge said. “Coming down here boosts you up.” Contributions of firewood let the picketers keep a wood stove stoked up.

Area union members continue to show support to the locked-out workers, visiting the picket line and contributing money. Many talk about similar struggles with their employers. “I didn’t realize how many other people were in the same boat,” Runge said.

Restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses offer discounts to members of Local 48G. Signs reading “We support BCTGM Local 48G” are prominently displayed in a number of storefronts, and on the front door of Lumpy’s Tap, a popular bar on Main Street.

Gate City reported that in late December the Roquette plant had dumped “an estimated 6,000 gallons of corn syrup” into the Mississippi River and is likely to be fined.
Related articles:
On the Picket Line
Workers laid off after New Zealand mine blast  
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