Ingredion workers start sixth month of strike
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - January marks the start of six months of striking for around 130 Ingredion employees in Cedar Rapids.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Jeff Blazek, a maintenance mechanic at Ingredion, said. “I have two grandsons, and it was hard for me not to be able to get them decent gifts.”
“I’ve been very transparent with my kids and my family,” Luke Gronewold, a lubrication technician, said. “They understand why I’m here, what I’m doing, and what I’m fighting for.”
For their part, Ingredion said, in a statement: “From the very start of these negotiations, Ingredion has been committed to reaching an agreement that provides very competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, and enhanced conditions for our people to ensure the successful operation of the Cedar Rapids facility, our continued vital role in the community, and our ongoing support of Iowa farmers.
We have negotiated in good faith and on a regular basis with the union, exchanging numerous proposals and enlisting a federal mediator. Despite our extensive efforts, an agreement was not reached in advance of the August 1 contract expiration, and the union immediately commenced a work stoppage.
The Company’s latest offer incorporated feedback from the union, and included numerous adjustments to our previous proposals and achieved many mutually beneficial items, including increased pay, growth opportunities, and an enhanced benefits package.
In response to the work stoppage, we enacted our business continuity plan and are continuing to operate the facility to fulfill our customers’ orders and mitigate the impact on our operations. Our top priority is the safety and security of our employees operating the facility, the community members of Cedar Rapids, and our suppliers making deliveries to our facility.
As we have formally communicated to the union, Ingredion stands ready to further our discussions with the objective of reaching an agreement that is fair and allows for the opportunity to sustainably build on the facility’s proud 128-year history.”
The last negotiation was on December 4. After going more than five months, some workers made the difficult choices to make ends meet.
“A lot of us have had to get other jobs to provide a means of money for our families,” Gronewold said.
They said they would continue to stand their ground for a more agreeable contract: better health benefits and increased wages, but also said this strike was bigger than Ingredion.
“This is a union town,” Gronewold said. “Whatever happens here is going to happen in other places. Think of all the other union plants; General Mills. Cargill, ADM, it’s going to affect everybody.”
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