Less than half the 220 strikers have been allowed to return to work so far, while roughly 100 newly hired scabs are still working.
Ross Grimm, 50, an assistant blending operator with 20 years in the plant, was among some 100 union members brought back to work. “It was really tense at first,” he said. “The company creates a hostile work environment.” Grimm says they are working under the old contract, which expired last November. Negotiations resumed April 30.
The company put a lot of pressure on the workers during the strike, Grimm said. “They sent letters addressed to the spouses saying to tell your husband or wife to go back or they’ll lose their job. … The company is trying to break the union. The replacement workers are not qualified, and we’re supposed to train them. That’s not right, because union members haven’t been called back yet.”
“The remainder [of former strikers] are on a preferential hiring list and will be offered the opportunity to return as openings occur,” Brackmann told the Militant. “Of the workers hired during the strike, approximately 100 were retained as permanent replacement workers.”
Brackmann did not respond to a question from the Militant on whether the newly hired replacement workers are being given preference out of seniority over the former strikers.
Jeff Ernst, 49, worked for 24 years at a non-union steel plant in nearby Muscatine before coming to work at Nichols two years ago. He has not yet been called back. “I’m not getting unemployment benefits yet because the company hasn’t said whether we’re laid off or fired,” he said.
Rallies took place in January and March in front of the plant to support the striking workers. The main disputed issues are the company’s proposal to institute a two-tier wage structure, a four-year wage freeze, and hikes in employee payments for medical insurance.
The local has pending charges against the company for unfair labor practices.
IAM strikes Illinois Cat plant, rejects union busting
Construction boss in NY ‘gets away with murder’
Texas flour mill workers’ rally marks 1-year strike
‘The miners have proven that it takes a fight to win’
No worker has to die!
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