Through days topping 90 degrees with no shade and days at 11 degrees below zero coupled with dangerous wind chills, unionized workers in Cedar Rapids held the line for nearly six months despite the pressures of being out of work.
On Sunday, after 175 days on the picket line, it all paid off.
Eighty-eight workers at Ingredion, affiliated with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 100-G union, voted to approve a negotiated contract with their company during a Sunday vote that lasted a little over two hours.
“It’s a big weight off our shoulders,” said Mike Moore, the local union president.
The vote was “a very close margin,” Moore said.
“It’s not a great contract, but it’s a good contract, and that’s what we were shooting for,” Moore told Starting Line. “It’s 100 times better than what they gave us Aug. 1.”
Members will likely return to work the week of Feb. 6, Moore confirmed.
What was won?
The strike began Aug. 1, with all 116 members at the time voting down the company’s proposed contract.
At issue, workers said at that time, was the proposed layoffs of five people, not paying certain tiers of workers what they’re owed, increasing workers’ insurance rates, forced overtime, working on days off, and lowering earned vacation time.
Since the strike began, Moore said Ingredion management also wanted to add duties to employees’ workloads and suggested in October they wanted to eliminate their entire maintenance department.
After negotiations over the last several days and weeks, workers won the following gains:
- Keeping the five workers whose jobs were at risk;
- 15% raises over the next four years for all workers;
- Elimination of a two-tiered workforce by 2026;
- Not passing over longtime workers for job promotions and overtime;
- Retaining their vacation;
- Retaining their current health insurance through 2024.
Ingredion Spokesperson Becca Hary shared the following sentiments about the deal.
“The new contract provides increased wages, comprehensive benefits, and growth opportunities for employees and reinforces our continued vital role in the community,” Hary said. “We look forward to welcoming our employees back to Cedar Rapids and working together to ensure the best environment for all employees, the company and the community to thrive.”
How did they hold out for so long?
Moore credited everyone from BCTGM International negotiator Jason Davis to Rick Moyle of Hawkeye Labor and other area union leaders, to the Cedar Rapids community, and BCTGM locals from around the country for their help and support.
“Just the honking, and people stopping by, dropping off food, dropping off hand warmers in the winter and sunscreen in the summer,” all were appreciated, he said.
But his biggest praise was for his more than 100 members.
“I’m proud of each and every one of them,” Moore said. “Not one person crossed the line. They overcame.”
Some elected officials also praised workers’ commitment and heralded their victory.
“While no one expected this strike to go on for nearly six months, we were inspired by the courage and example set by the workers of BCTGM 100G,” said Rep. Sami Scheetz (D-Cedar Rapids), in a statement after the vote.
“From the beginning, we stood with the union workers fighting for a fair contract with Ingredion,” Scheetz added. “Workers across Iowa and across the United States can look to the example set by these brave leaders—and the union workers at Ingredion and their families can look forward to more prosperity in the days ahead.”
From the beginning, we stood with the @BCTGM workers fighting for a fair contract with Ingredion.
— Sami Scheetz (@SamiScheetz) January 22, 2023
Other Democratic legislators also weighed in on the news.
“Congrats to BCTGM 100G on your newly ratified contract with Ingredion,” said Sen. Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids). “You stood strong for 5 months against corporate greed.”
“The striking Ingredion workers are grinders,” said Rep. J.D. Scholten (D-Sioux City). “Having met with them several times, I applaud them for standing up for their livelihoods.”
by Amie Rivers
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