Two hundred members of IAM Local 516 walked out Nov. 14 after voting down a contract proposal the company calls freedom of choicean open shop in which each worker decides whether or not to join the union.
Our members went out to stop the company from busting the union, said Bob Gleichnew, Local 516 shop chairman.
The 800 workers at Manitowoc Cranes, which produce gigantic crawler cranes used in construction and other industries, are members of several unions. Many who are not IAM members are still working in the plant, a number of whom joined the Saturday rally and march.
Matt Ward, a member of the Boilermakers union, was laid off by Manitowoc after the strike began along with more than 150 other members of his union. Now the state says we cant collect unemployment because were out of work due to a strike, he said. But the company laid us off, not the union! We are 100 percent behind our brothers and sisters in the IAM. The Boilermakers had one of the largest contingents at the rally and march.
Joe Vreeke, president of Boilermakers Local 443, said some members of that union have been called back to work, but we are only doing our jobs. The company has been trying to get us to do the IAM jobs, but we are refusing.
According to Ben Elizondo, IAM Local 516 business agent, the company has brought 20 to 30 temporary replacement workers into the plant.
On Dec. 9 the company announced the shipment of some of its crane products will be delayed into the first quarter of next year due to supplier delivery issues with certain hydraulic components as well as the Machinists strike.
If we dont stop this attack here it will spread, said Julie Gaultier, a regular on the picket line whose husband is on strike. She said members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in the plant face a contract fight in March, and workers at Manitowoc Ice, a division of the same company, have a contract expiring April 1. Were the guinea pigs, and we have to stop it here.
Ive been on strike here in 1973 for 13 weeks, in 2003 for four days and now weve been out for four weeks, said Leon Gaultier, who operates the outside crawler cranes. Were not going back until were done.
Members of the teachers union, United Steelworkers, Firefighters, Communications Workers of America, Laborers, hotel workers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers and many other unions each spoke for a couple of minutes at the rally. Several presented contributions from collections taken at their workplaces to help the striking workers and their families.
Contributions can be sent to the Strike Assistance Fund: MCI Strike Fund c/o Machinists Local 516, PO Box 222, Manitowoc, WI 54221-0222. Food and toy donations can be sent to IAMAW District Lodge 10, 1650 S 38th St., Milwaukee, WI 53215-1726.
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