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Vol. 74/No. 43      November 15, 2010

‘We’re shouting union
and solidarity now’
The following is a short message and article sent to the Militant from a locked-out worker at the Roquette America, Inc., plant in Keokuk, Iowa.

I wanted to put some thoughts down about how the lockout at Keokuk is affecting the town, my family, and the workers at Roquette. I also wanted to thank many of you for visiting our picket lines and Labor Temple. Good luck to David, Helen, Margaret, Rebecca, and Laura [Socialist Workers Party candidates in Iowa and Illinois] in the elections.

Just two months ago our union, Local 48G of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers [BCTGM] had 5 to 10 members attending our biweekly meetings out of 239 members.

Since our employer Roquette America (a French-owned company) offered us a late hour, throw down, take it or leave it, union-busting contract, we have awakened.

As Roquette tried to put its stranglehold on our community, the people have decided Keokuk wasn’t for sale.

Many businesses have refused to cater to the company while putting union signs in their windows and providing discounts or special solidarity days for the workers. Some restaurants bring food to the picket lines.

Other unions have joined us at our rallies, donated money and/or food, and walked the picket lines with us.

We have slapped pickets up at six entrances to the plant, picketed their offices, the scabs’ hotels, and company officials’ homes.

People drive by and honk and show their fist in support. We are actually shouting the words “Union” and “Solidarity now,” a total turnaround from a couple months ago.

It’s heartening to see children being educated about the union while they are holding signs shouting “Scabs go home” as they walk beside their parents.

My kids were educated 25 years ago when we went through another lockout when this plant was owned by the H.J. Heinz company.

Now my daughter is a proud UFCW [United Food and Commercial Workers] member and brought my granddaughter to march with my wife, my son, and I.

This gives me hope someday that maybe the workers will be in charge and we’ll be able to open our daily newspaper and find the labor section as easy as the business section.

My daughter said it all in her e-mail she sent me. “Dad, I was proud to come march with you. The company will come to their senses and get the scabs out of there. What do we want? Contract! Who are we? UNION!!!” No matter what happens I am very proud of my family, my town, and my union.

In Solidarity,
Buddy Howard
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