On the Picket Line

Indiana Machinists end 2-month strike, vow to fight plant closure

By Dan Fein
September 23, 2019

VALPARAISO, Ind. — “I am glad we went on strike. It brought us closer together. We learned solidarity,” Kelley Wilson, an inspector at the Regal Beloit plant, told the Militant  Sept. 4, the day after members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2018 returned to work after a strike that began June 30. 

Some 110 union members had walked out demanding 75 cents per hour raises and a $15,000 out-of-pocket family health care maximum. The facility makes bearings for helicopters and airplanes.

On Aug. 27 the company announced it was closing the plant and moving production to its nonunion facility downstate in Monticello. 

No date has been set for the plant closure. The union agreed to take down its picket lines a few days after the announcement and returned to work under the old contract. The union will try to negotiate to keep the plant open, or if not successful, to get severance pay for the workers.

“I feel proud of what we did. It is better to fight and lose than not to fight at all,” said Dora Smith, a CNC operator, as she was leaving the plant after working day shift Sept. 4.

Three rallies were held over the course of the strike where other local unions and supporters marched in solidarity with IAM Local 2018 members.

“The strike caused all of our members to come together like I have never seen before,” Joey Jessen emailed this reporter. “I hope it will give other unions in this country the courage to fight back and stand up. Regal Beloit is a spineless, greedy company that cares about their profits, not their people, but we won at the end of the day.”