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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 49      December 27, 2010


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(lead article)
Iowa unionists back
locked-out workers
Locked-out workers picket grain processor Roquette America in Keokuk, Iowa, December 10.

KEOKUK, Iowa—After almost three months on the picket line, locked-out grain millers at Roquette America continue to win support.

On December 10, four members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 310 in Des Moines, Iowa, made the three-hour trip to Keokuk to deliver a $1,300 donation. Union volunteers had collected the money at the gate of the Bridgestone-Firestone tire factory during shift changes.

After George Cox, vice president of Local 310, presented the check to Steve Underwood, president of Local 48G of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union, they joined the picket line outside Roquette’s main gate. Three of the steelworkers, like many others at the tire plant who made contributions, had gone through a long and bitter strike against Firestone in 1994-95. They exchanged experiences with the locked-out workers.

Soon after the tire workers left the picket line, more solidarity arrived from the Des Moines area. Mark Cooper, president of the South Central Iowa AFL-CIO, and another unionist brought 250 holiday food baskets to the Keokuk Labor Temple for the Roquette workers. Cooper joined the picket line before returning to Des Moines.

Picketing workers are prepared to keep the picket line going during the sometimes brutally cold weather of an Iowa winter. A trailer made of corrugated metal and wood has been set up outside the Roquette gate. Workers have dubbed it “Club 48G,” named after their union. Equipped with a wood-burning stove and donated couches and chairs, the picketers can keep warm as they maintain their 24-hour picket line. Donated firewood is stacked up outside the trailer.

Roquette has hired Ohio-based LB&F, Inc., to provide scabs. The antiunion company’s name is believed to refer to what many bosses call their “last, best, and final offer” when they are trying to pressure workers to accept a concessionary or union-weakening contract proposal.

Buddy Howard, a locked-out worker, told the Militant that LB&F has provided about 60 replacement workers. Another 30 others have been hired locally.

Roquette has tried to recruit scabs through local employment agencies, job fairs, and direct hiring. In November, three members of Local 48G stood outside a job fair hosted by a temporary agency. The newspaper ad said the jobs paid $13.50 per hour, with weekly bonuses of up to $200—an attractive offer in this part of Iowa, which has the highest unemployment in the state. The unionists outside wanted to make sure applicants knew that the jobs were for strikebreakers at Roquette, something the ad in the newspaper failed to mention.

Howard says that whenever they can, they try to talk with applicants about why they should not become strikebreakers.

The Roquette unionists also offer their solidarity to other workers in struggle. A sign outside the Keokuk Labor Temple, which houses the offices of Local 48G and other local unions, states, “Local 48G members salute our brothers and sisters of USW Local 7-669 locked out by Honeywell in Metropolis, IL.” Some 220 workers at the Honeywell uranium processing plant have been locked out by the company since June 28. Two Local 48G members visited Honeywell workers to extend solidarity.
Related articles:
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Bangladesh: Thousands strike for higher wages
On the Picket Line

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