On the Picket Line

Indiana Machinists strike for health care, living wages

By Samantha Hamlin
July 22, 2019

VALPARAISO, Ind. — “My family is on strike,” Stephanie Lambert, a striking lab worker at Regal Beloit Manufacturing, told the Militant July 6. Some 130 members of International Association of Machinists Local 2018 walked out here a week earlier when their contract expired. The Machinists, who make ball bearings for the airline industry, set up a 24-hour picket across from the plant, after voting 99-5 to go on strike against the bosses’ proposed concession contract.

“That was one of our proudest moments, we all stuck together,” said Russell Bramlet, who has worked at Regal for 35 years.

The workers are striking for affordable health care, defined break times, and higher wages. Some workers told the Militant that they are living paycheck to paycheck on their current wages. Regal bosses are demanding higher monthly health insurance rates — to the equivalent of a whole week’s pay.

Lambert explained that Regal’s already low wages and high health insurance rates make it difficult to raise a family. “I’m a single mom with two kids and I’m half drowning,” she said.

“We don’t live to work, we work to live,” said Greg Miller, a striking machinist who hired on last year. “What we’re making over here doesn’t keep up with the cost of living.”

Striking workers said they’ve received support from area workers. Union retail and steel mill workers have stopped by with bowls of fruit, water, Gatorade and snacks.

The strikers’ picket line is set up across the street from the plant on the front lawn of a union Steelworker who offered it in solidarity. They organize to keep it clean, and are collecting for a thank-you gift.

Shortly after the strike began, the bosses sent a letter to all union members urging them to cross the picket line. “They try to pit us against each other,” said Miller. “They make it sound like we’re family, but if I died, they’d have me replaced before my obituary was written.”