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Vol. 75/No. 47      December 26, 2011

Minn. tank trailer workers
strike against ‘outsourcing’
OPOLE, Minn.—“We had about 150 on the picket line Dec. 5,” said Steve Brewer, a member of International Association of Machinists Local 165 on strike against Polar Tank Trailer in this town of less than 100 people, about 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis.

The union previously went on strike there for 16 days in 2005.

“We knew the company planned to start bringing in scabs, so the union organized a big picket line,” said Brewer.

Strikers said a few vanloads of replacement workers crossed the picket lines that morning. As well, about 35 union members out of more than 350 have crossed the picket lines and returned to work.

“We heard the company is using Strom Engineering to bring in scabs,” said Loren Mrosla, while picketing near the plant. Strom Engineering is a scab-herding outfit based in Minnetonka.

Strom was hired by American Crystal Sugar to bring in more than 1,000 replacement workers in its lockout that began Aug. 1. More recently, Strom is bringing in scabs to replace unionists at Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, where more than 1,000 Steelworkers are locked out.

Twice in the past few months, unions have organized protests outside Strom headquarters in solidarity with 1,300 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers locked-out by American Crystal at its five plants in northern Minnesota and North Dakota, and two smaller plants in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa.

The replacement workers in Opole are working 12-hour shifts. Strikers are picketing 24 hours a day.

Workers at Polar Tank went on strike Dec. 1, after rejecting by a large margin the bosses’ five-year contract proposal. That day, company President Frank Lukacs sent a letter to strikers in which he announced Polar Tank was cutting off their medical benefits and asserted the company’s “right to hire replacement employees.” The letter also said that by law the company “does not have to terminate replacements to make room for strikers who later want to return to work.”

The company is demanding the right to “sub-contract work as it deems appropriate.” In a Dec. 9 letter to union members, Polar Tank Trailer representatives said, “We need to outsource some of our assembly processes and raw material inventory to move towards a ‘just in time’ process. We proposed that as a result of outsourcing, no jobs would be lost for at least 30 days after the outsourcing.”

Negotiations resumed Dec. 9. On Dec. 12 workers rejected a revised company contract and voted to maintain their strike.

Donations and letters in support of the strikers can be sent to IAM Local 623, 1903 4th St. North, St. Cloud, MN 56303.
Related articles:
Locked-out tire workers in Ohio build support rally
Rally slams Manitowoc Cranes’ union busting
Striker: ‘If we don’t stop it here, it will spread’
1,700 McGill Univ. strikers win, now ‘together, stronger’
Illinois miners win court ruling in fight for union
Bosses get off easy in 2010 death of 29 W.Va. miners
Licorice workers in fight ‘for long haul’
Striking limestone workers receive solidarity
Pa. Steelworkers return to jobs with heads held high
Union power key to defend life and limb
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