Monday marked 78 days on strike for about 120 workers at Ingredion in Cedar Rapids, whose company tells them they can’t afford to pay a living wage or save the jobs workers are demanding despite the company’s CEO profiting handsomely off their labor.
That’s a notable number because it’s the same amount of days that their last major strike lasted before both sides came to an agreement. The 2004 strike occurred when the company was owned by Penford Products.
Workers at Penford were on strike for 11 weeks, from Aug. 2 through Oct. 18, 2004. There hadn’t been a strike at that plant since 1966.
But at the moment, this latest strike—which began exactly 18 years later, on Aug. 2—looks to easily surpass it.
Ingredion officials have increasingly made their offer to workers even worse, threatening to cut more jobs or benefits, at the same time as they say they’ve gotten threats that mean their negotiating officials have to travel to negotiations with armed guards.
Local union president Mike Moore said negotiations haven’t happened since the armed guard situation. BCTGM workers and supporters picketed on Oct. 6 at Ingredion corporate headquarters in Westchester, Illinois.
Ingredion spokesperson Becca Hary said the company was “committed to reaching an agreement that provides very competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, and enhanced conditions for our people to ensure the successful operation of our Cedar Rapids facility.
“We stand ready to continue negotiations with the union that represents our employees,” Hary added. “Our top priority is reaching a fair agreement as soon as possible.”
Today, @BCTGM Cedar Rapids workers and supporters picketed @Ingredion corporate headquarters in Illinois.
They haven’t been able to negotiate with their local managers in weeks.
Photos sent from union president Mike Moore (who said no one from HQ or CEO’s house came out) pic.twitter.com/OdpuTCaKg9
— Amie Rivers (@amierrivers) October 6, 2022
But just like CNHi, where 440 workers are striking down the road in Burlington, the company definitely has the cash to pay striking BCTGM 100-G workers a living wage, as well as benefits that give them a work-life balance.
150-1 CEO-to-worker pay disparity
Ingredion might not have an Italian playboy backstory like CNHi. But its CEO is still an egregious example of the wealth gap.
CEO James Zallie joined Ingredion in 2010 when it acquired National Starch, the company he was previously CEO of.
During his time with Ingredion, Zallie has led the purchase of several competitors. So far, that’s included acquiring Penford Corporation (including the Cedar Rapids plant), Kerr Concentrates, PureCircle, TIC Gums, Verdient Foods, and Western Polymer, according to Ingredion’s website.
While Ingredion’s profits have grown and executives have gotten rich on stock buybacks, Zallie credited workers with keeping his company’s reputation intact after Fortune Magazine named Ingredion to its list of the World’s Most Admired Companies for 13 years in a row.
Zallie makes more than $10 million per year, while the average Ingredion worker makes $65,000, a disparity of more than 150-to-1.
Workers aren’t actually asking for wage increases overall. Rather, they are looking to hang onto the jobs they have and keep their health insurance from rising so fast, not losing their hard-earned vacation time and not being forced to work overtime or on their days off.
By Amie Rivers
Have a story idea for me? Email amie at iowastartingline.com. I’m also available by text, WhatsApp and Signal at (319) 239-0350, or find me on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Follow us on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.