NEW RICHMOND, Wis. — Nine members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 22, went on strike at Form-A-Feed here June 13. They are the only union members among the over 200 workers at the company’s two mills, here and in Stewart, Minnesota.
The company makes food for cattle and pigs as well as forage for other farm animals.
This Militant worker-correspondent met Local 22 President Walter Borgan on the picket line. Their contract expired May 1 and the workers are fighting for higher wages and benefits. The bosses offered profit sharing to the nine workers if they decertified the union. They refused.
Workers want an 8% raise and a one-year contract, Borgan said, and a $2,500 ratification bonus. The last company offer was for a $500 bonus and a 6% wage increase.
Signs on the picket line included, “Fighting for more $ — Stop the Greed” and “Retirement for 200+, not just the 9 of us.”
Jim Hanson, with 41 years at the mill, said the strikers have been getting community support on the picket line, including food donations. He said that Boilermakers unionists have refused to cross the picket line and that the company had to bring in nonunion people from Minneapolis, some 50 miles away, to maintain the boilers.
Borgan said that if they are successful, they will go to the Minnesota plant and introduce the union to workers there.
One of the workers on the picket line told us his family farms some 500 acres. He said that they can’t afford to buy feed from Form-A-Feed because it’s too expensive. Things are tough for family farmers today, he said, pointing to skyrocketing prices of the cost of fuel and other necessities to run a farm.
The workers’ spirits are high and they’re resolved to stay out as long as it takes. Borgan said that workers had watched the BCTGM strikes over the past year at Frito-Lay, Nabisco, Kellogg’s and the Jon Donaire bakery, all of which show you have to fight to get what you deserve.