On the Picket Line

Illinois UAW members strike Metal-Matic for union contract

By Dan Fein
March 20, 2023

BEDFORD PARK, Ill. — Some 120 members of United Auto Workers Local 588 went on strike against Metal-Matic here Feb. 22 in a fight over wages and health insurance. This is the union’s first contract fight since workers voted to join the union in June 2021. Two earlier attempts to organize a union weren’t successful. The plant here makes steel tubing for the automobile, railroad and agriculture industries, as well as others.

“Prospects are good for winning this strike,” Marco Aquileta, who has 26 years at the plant, told the Militant. “We need to win solidarity from other working people and their unions. Inflation is eating into our paychecks. PTC Alliance bought Metal-Matic last June and wants cuts in wages and health insurance. We don’t have a pension, just a 401(k), which is a gamble.”

PTC, a major tubing producer, took over Metal-Matic’s four production facilities in Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois.

“The company wants to change the health insurance policy so a family would have a $4,000 yearly deductible and $2,000 for a single worker. They also want to cut our wages by $4 per hour if we don’t learn three additional jobs within one year,” said John Drury, the union shop chairman with 13 years in the plant. “We are on strike to stop these attacks. The company is also trying to decertify the union.”

Another striker told me, “The company sent us a letter recently urging us to cross the picket line and return to work. But I sent it back with a note, ‘Return to sender.’”

“The company has brought in management people from the Minneapolis plant to try to get some production,” said Aquileta.

Crane operator Giancarlo Gonzalez described the solidarity the strike has won. “We have had visits from UAW members from the big Ford plant, teachers union members, transportation workers. Truckers leaving the CSX railroad yard next to us often honk in support of our strike.”

Stop by and show solidarity! The picket line is up 24/7 at 7200 S. Narragansett Ave. in Bedford Park.

Messages of support can also be mailed to the union hall: UAW Local 588, 21540 Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago Heights, IL 60411.