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Vol. 76/No. 4      January 30, 2012

Honor of picket line strengthened
strike against Indiana Limestone
OOLITIC, Ind.—After 56 days on strike, workers at the Indiana Limestone mill and quarry here voted Jan. 9 to approve a new contract and return to work.

Members of Millworkers Local 8093 walked off the job in November when the company’s “last, best, and final” offer included a frontal attack on seniority rights. Bosses had proposed that they be able to layoff, recall and assign workers based on their “proficiency,” regardless of how long they had worked at the company.

“The company was looking to get rid of the older workers so they could bring in younger guys and pay them less,” said Tim Spreen, Local 8093 president. In the new three-year contract that workers approved by a 39–9 margin, seniority rights are restored.

The contract also includes concessions on attendance policy and medical insurance. At the same time, many workers feel they won on the main issue. Seniority is our “way to protect people who’ve given their blood, sweat, and tears for the company,” said Ronnie Watson, a long-time worker at the mill and member of the union negotiating team.

A key factor in the strike was the solidarity gained from about 20 coworkers in the mill who belong to another union, the Journeymen Stonecutters of Indiana. Their contract with the company allowed them to honor the millworkers’ picket line and while they received no strike benefits, they stayed out the entire duration of the strike. The support from the stonecutters “really meant the difference” in being able to push back the company’s attacks, said Spreen.

“I would do it again. It might be us the next time,” said stonecutter Andy Banks, who has worked in the mill for 15 years.

The millworkers also gained support from the wider community. Activists from Occupy Bloomington regularly visited the picket line and organized a Christmas Toy Benefit in Bloomington that raised $1,775. A rally of some 140 people in nearby Bedford Dec. 17 boosted the strikers’ spirits.

Indiana Limestone “didn’t think we would get public support,” said Spreen. “But I guess they underestimated us.”
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