On Friday, August 14, more than 100 union members, family members and community supporters of BCTGM Local 100G members gathered for an informational picket and rally outside the Ingredion plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The collective bargaining agreement covering approximately 160 union members at the plant expired on August 1. During contract negotiations, Ingredion negotiators proposed more than 120 concessionary changes to the collective bargaining agreement. The BCTGM has filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board concerning the company’s unethical behavior before and during the current contract negotiations. Union members continue to work under the terms of the expired agreement.
The plight of Local 100G workers has been extensively reported by local media and widely supported by the Cedar Rapids community. BCTGM Local 100G President Chris Eby has been an outspoken critic of the company’s tactics and was the featured speaker at Friday’s solidarity event. He delivered the following words to the rally and received thunderous applause.
“I was born and raised here in this community; I’m the third generation to have put my life into this plant. Just a few months ago a new company (Ingredion) paid hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase this plant. The company sent out a grand welcome and touted their ethics awards and our workers…well they held cautious optimism.
“In a matter of weeks the collective air of optimism was let out of any celebratory balloons. It became clear at the bargaining table that our distant owners had no interest in understanding our workers’ history and efforts. These distant owners began what only can be considered a campaign of intimidation inside the plant. While expressing an intent to reach a contract, they brought in dozens of outside workers to train on our jobs to replace us. They brought in security, sleeping trailers, and a food truck. There were management attempting to instill fear in our members and attempting to undermine our workers trust in the union.
“It has not worked; it has only made us stronger.
“Let me just tell you that if that’s the company’s definition of ethics, then I’ll take Iowa values over Ingredion ethics every day! OUR members overwhelming rejected the company’s final offer that was riddled with more than 100 concessions. We came back to work and continue to attempt to reach a fair contract— because that’s the kind of ethics our members have.
“On Monday we begin negotiations anew. Let us hope that Ingredion learns from the ills of their ways. Let Ingredion know that Cedar Rapids does not hold kindly to those outsiders who come into our community and attempt to lower its standard of living.
“Twenty-Two. That’s the number of my brothers and sisters—your neighbors and friends—that were put in the unfair position to retire before they were ready to in order to ensure they had the retirement health insurance they were promised and that they worked all their lives for. Ingredion—my family of co-workers didn’t go away; they will be here to fight for us for as long as it takes. If anything, look around and know our family is getting bigger.
“We are a peaceful, hardworking city. To Ingredion I say: we expect a fair contract that honors our history.
“But should this company question our resolve, know this: We would rather die on our feet standing up for our principles and our earned benefits, than spend a lifetime on our knees begging from contract to contract.”