Ingredion workers rally, win wide support in Iowa strike

By Edwin Fruit
September 19, 2022
Sept. 1 rally of Ingredion workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on strike since Aug. 1. Some 122 members of Bakery Workers union Local 100G are fighting bosses to win contract gains.
Militant/Edwin FruitSept. 1 rally of Ingredion workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on strike since Aug. 1. Some 122 members of Bakery Workers union Local 100G are fighting bosses to win contract gains.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Nearly 200 strikers, family members, fellow unionists and community supporters marched and rallied at the Ingredion plant here Sept. 1.

The 122 members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 100G at Ingredion have been on strike since Aug. 1 when they voted down the bosses’ contract proposal. Issues of contention include company demands for increased health premiums, elimination of union positions, a schedule of 14 straight days on 12-hour shifts, and elimination of overtime after eight hours work.

Workers told the Militant another important issue was the bosses’ insistence on their right to force you to come in on your day off.

Ingredion is a food-products conglomerate with 12,000 workers in 26 countries. It reported net sales of $7 billion in 2021.

At a rally held before marching around the plant, speakers thanked fellow unionists and the community for coming out. Ray Custer of Teamsters Local 238 said his union supported the strike and that Cedar Rapids is a union town. A Teamsters truck was parked nearby where donations and supplies were stored for the strikers.

“Just like with the John Deere and Case workers in Iowa, the so-called essential workers are considered expendable by the bosses,” Charlie Wisman, president of the Iowa AFL-CIO, told the crowd. He was referring to the over 10,000 members of the United Auto Workers at 14 John Deere plants who struck last fall against divisive two-tier wages, and the 1,000 UAW members now on strike at Case New Holland plants in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Wisman said support from other unions and the community really helps in negotiations with the company.

Lou Bromwell, who has worked at the plant for 17 years, explained that his whole family had come down with COVID and that the company took away his health care when the strike began.

“I worked hard for the company to make its profits,” Elaine Sweigwer, with 27 years in the plant, said. “Now they want to raise my health premiums and take away the time I want to spend with my family.”

Jason Davis, an international representative with the union, explained that companies like Ingredion are making record profits today. “The bosses at Ingredion, like those at Nabisco, Kellogg’s, Jon Donaire and Frito-Lay, all of which were on strike last year, don’t want their workers to have decent wages and working conditions,” he said.

Don Teff, who works at a Quaker Oats plant here, joined the picket line wearing his Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers union shirt. “Our plant employs over 600 workers and even though Iowa is a so-called right-to-work state, almost all the workers are in the union,” he said. “I thought it was important to come out and show our support for the Ingredion workers.”

Near the end of the rally the pickets walked in front of one of the buses transporting scabs into the plant. In addition to the Ingredion strikers, workers at the action included members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, BCTGM Local 10G, Carpenters, Postal Workers, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Send contributions and support messages for the strike to BCTGM Local 100G, 500 J St. SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.