CHICAGO — “I’m glad we stayed strong because we ended up with a lot better contract,” bakery worker Elaine Sweiger told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Sweiger was one of 122 members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 100G who struck for 175 days at Ingredion’s Iowa plant. Union members approved a new contract Jan. 22.
Workers need unions and “a decent wage and a work-life balance,” Sweiger said. Bosses had demanded a schedule of 14 days straight of 12-hour shifts, higher health premiums, job cuts and ending overtime pay after eight hours.
Union members “went out together and all are returning together,” Veronica Hopkins, a member of the union’s negotiating team, told this Militant worker-correspondent in a phone interview. The company was forced to drop demands that five workers be subject to disciplinary procedures upon returning to work, she said.
Local 100G members received widespread support from BCTGM locals throughout North America, the Cedar Rapids labor movement, the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions and other organizations.
The four-year contract also increases pay rates and retains seniority for overtime.
“We won because no union member crossed the picket line,” Kasey Klein told the Militant by phone the day after the contract vote. “We discussed and debated the proposed contract for two and a half hours.”
“The contract is not all we wanted,” Juan Rodriguez said. “I think the strike was worth it. It made us stronger.”
“With each new day on that picket line,” BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton told the press, “our members grew in strength, courage and determination.”