From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters
Workers on strike at the Ingredion plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, rallied on Sept. 1, the day marking one month since the strike began. The workers of BCTGM (Bakers, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers union) Local 100-G voted 116-0 to reject Ingredion’s contract offer; 114 voted to strike and walked out Aug. 1.
The company had made the workers at the corn processing plant an offer they could refuse, in multiple areas: demanding as much as $500 more for health insurance, freezing the two tiers of workers in place, eliminating five jobs in the test lab from the bargaining unit, among its harsh provisions.
Ingredion had deducted from workers’ pay in July to pay in advance for August health insurance coverage—coverage they couldn’t access once they walked out. Yet workers showed their pay stubs to prove that the company took strikers’ money out of their final paychecks, seemingly not just illegal but also taunting them.
Workers went on strike despite the preparations Ingredion had signaled it would take to maintain production: hiring scabs from out of town to try to learn union jobs, along with moving management into production. Workers expressed doubt that scabs could safely handle those jobs involving chemical processes required to produce corn starch and other corn into products. The last quarter with now-striking workers doing the job, the company reported a 16% increase in profit.
Solidarity has been strong from union members in Cedar Rapids and even from local businesses donating supplies. Rallies have attracted Democratic politicians running in November elections, but who knows if that will translate into the Labor Department, the NLRB and the courts fairly addressing Ingredion’s unfair labor practices.
—Teamster in solidarity