Striking Iowa Machinists reject bosses’ takeback offers, win support

By Dan Fein
March 21, 2022

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Members of the International Association of Machinists on strike at Eaton Corporation’s Mission Systems Division here voted March 4 to reject for a second time a company takeback contract. The vote was 97% against. IAM Local 388 and Local 1191 went on strike Feb. 18 after voting by 98% to turn down the bosses’ demands.

There are 269 IAM members among the 360 hourly employees. Because Iowa is a so-called right-to-work state, unions are barred from negotiating as a closed shop. Some nonunion workers walked out and are helping staff the picket lines.

The company is demanding higher costs for health care, elimination of overtime pay after eight hours, forced overtime, attacks on pensions, and wage increases below inflation.

“The new proposal is the same contract we voted down before we began the strike, with the exception that it’s for five years instead of three,” striker John Fox told the Militant by phone March 7. “Why would I vote down a contract that includes cutbacks in the pension plan plus cutbacks in the 401(k) for three years and then vote for the same cutbacks for five years?”

“If Eaton’s belief was that support within the two bargaining units is waning after two weeks on the strike line, this vote outcome should answer that question,” John Herrig, IAM District 6 business representative, told the press.

The company announced it would begin hiring replacement workers and wouldn’t be available to meet with the union again until March 14 or later.

“The strike brought us together,” said striker Tony Johnson on the picket line March 3. “We have UAW workers from John Deere every day and other unions have joined us. Our picket lines remain strong.” Over 6,000 United Auto Workers at John Deere in the Quad Cities area here went out on strike last fall.

“The company cut off our health insurance,” assembler Susan Brew told the Militant. Maintenance worker Glen Carr said, “The company has hired Hometown Plumbing to do some of the work we usually do.”

Some salaried workers have begun leaving the company, citing unsafe conditions in the plant without the union workers and in solidarity with their fight. “Several of them have stopped by the strike line to say their ‘goodbyes,’” the union told the media.

“It’s sad to see some good people from the salaried side leave because of conditions inside,” James Anderson, shop chair for Local 1191’s bargaining unit, told WQAD news. “I certainly hope that we can reach an agreement that is competitive with the cost of living instead of Eaton’s lowest-paid facilities.”

To join the strikers’ picket line or offer support to their fight, call IAM Local 388 at (563) 383-6289.