VALPARAISO, Ind. — Some 80 striking members of International Association of Machinists Local 2018 rallied here July 15 ahead of afternoon negotiations with Regal Beloit bosses. They were joined by family members and other area unionists in a lively protest outside the plant. One of the more popular chants was “Affordable health care now.”
The unionists have been on strike since June 30 for higher wages and against company demands that they pay more for health care, a monthly premium equal to a full week’s pay.
At first the bosses lied and told them company property extends way to the road, so they had to set up their 24-hour picket on the front lawn of a house owned by a member of the United Steelworkers union across from the plant. But Vernon Beck, president of the United Steelworkers local at the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, told the Militant that he found proof the company doesn’t own the property by the road. So now strikers picket at the plant entrance.
Janet Fox, who’s worked at the company for 40 years, said that in the last contract the bosses froze their pensions. Then they replaced them with a 401k, into which the company contributed 6%. Now, she said, they’re not even doing that. She also said the company tried to get them to agree to the concession with a signing “bonus” of $650.
“The spirit of the strike is good,” maintenance worker Russell Bramlet said.