Cedar Rapids, Iowa — When Ingredion Inc., headquartered in West Chester, Ill., purchased the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Penford Products plant this spring, company officials said that for the immediate future, there would not be drastic changes.
However, contentious negotiations that began June 1, 2015 continue between company officials and representatives of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) Local 100G (Cedar Rapids) for a successor Agreement covering workers at the plant. The present collective bargaining agreement covering workers at the Cedar Rapids plant expires at on Saturday, August 1.
According to BCTGM International Vice President Jethro Head, who is the lead negotiator for the Local 100G bargaining committee, negotiations have, “been plagued with corporate over-reach and bad faith bargaining.”
The BCTGM bargaining committee has identified more than 100 concessions in the company’s most recent proposal.
“Ingredion’s proposal is one of the most concession-riddled fiascos I have seen in my 40 years in this business,” says Head. “The company seems determined to intentionally bring this to a showdown here in Cedar Rapids. These proposals are not conducive to any reasonable chance of settlement. This is a typical move by a multi-national corporation detached from its workforce and the communities where the plants are located,” Head notes.
Ingredion, a maker of high-fructose corn syrup, acquired the Penford Corp. in March 2015 for about $340 million to add potato starches to its range of specialty food ingredients. Approximately 160 Local 100G members are employed at the Cedar Rapids Penford plant, which produces starches.
“Ingredion officials direct outside negotiators and attorneys to dismantle worker’s lives and destroy communities by siphoning resources from working families and putting them directly into their pockets. We cannot and will not allow Ingredion to do this to Cedar Rapids,” adds Head. “We are going to stand up for our members and the other working families in Cedar Rapids. It is going to stop here.”
Chris Eby, Local 100G President notes, “It is obvious that the company’s positions at the bargaining table are intended to avoid a settlement. Ingredion negotiators could not even apply a cost savings to the proposals that have been put across the table.”
According to Head, Ingredion has brought in trailers, roll-away beds and added extra security, which could be used to house replacement workers. “This is a means to threaten and intimidate the workforce and another sign that Ingredion never intended to bargain in good faith,” adds Head.
“By adding the very prospect of replacement workers into the bargaining process, the company proves its willingness to allow another layer of outsiders to take work from the Cedar Rapids community. Ingredion and companies like them use these migratory job predators in an attempt to beat their employees and their communities economically,” Head states.
“Typically, these replacement workers – or scabs, as we call them – will keep local law enforcement on their toes and everyone in Cedar Rapids will be locking their doors at night. Once these scabs are done, they leave town and move to the next community where they take advantage of another workforce and the communities in which they live,” explains Head.
“We are ready to defend our hard-working members, their families and the city of Cedar Rapids with every resource available,” concludes Head.
Iowa State Representative Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids), who attended a July 27 informational picket outside the Penford facility, told local news channel KCRG-TV9 that he joined union members outside the plant to support Iowa jobs, learn more about the negotiations, and listen to the concerns of the community he represents.
“We want to have good paying jobs and we want employers and workers to respect one and other and to work together,” Staed said in the news report. “This is an ethanol plant right down in the city of Cedar Rapids so I want to make sure that we have good qualified workers here.”
Ingredion’s CEO, President and Chairman Ilene S. Gordon was paid nearly $8 million dollars in salary and other compensation in 2014. Ingredion has 11,000 employees at 36 locations worldwide.