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As both sides in a protracted union strike against Ingredion in Cedar Rapids continue to seek a possible resolution to the months-long impasse, a pair of statements have emerged supporting the union workers. A letter of support from the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 11 union representing Cedar Rapids firefighters and a tweet from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were both posted online in late December. The letter from the Cedar Rapids Firefighters union, dated Dec. 20 and posted on the BCTGM union’s website, focuses on safety concerns at the Ingredion plant, which has been operated by replacement workers since members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 100-G union began their strike Aug. 1, and urges Ingredion officials to “bargain a fair and equitable contract” to bring the strike to an end. “As public safety professionals, the IAFF knows well the dangers that exist at this facility and the complexity of safely handling com starch, dust, and the use of chemicals such as Ethylene Oxide,” the letter, signed by Cedar Rapids Association of Firefighters president Paul Bagby, reads in part. “The members of BCTGM Local 100G are well trained and have decades of experience running this highly complex process,” the letter continues. “They work diligently every day to operate this facility safely. Their lives and the safety of our community depend on it. The longer Ingredion uses untrained and inexperienced operators to run this facility, the more exposure our community faces to a potential public safety catastrophe.” Meanwhile, Mr. Sanders, the longest-serving independent senator in U.S. history with a long track record of supporting organized labor, posted a tweet Dec. 27 criticizing Ingredion leaders. “I support @BCTGM Ingredion workers in their 20th week on strike in Cedar Rapids,” Mr. Sanders tweeted. “If Ingredion can return $250 million this year to shareholders and pay its CEO $10 million last year, it can afford a fair contract that does not increase health costs, decrease wages, or cut jobs.” Mr. Sanders previously visited Cedar Rapids in September 2015 to support Ingredion workers during their last strike against the company. Members of the BCTGM International union began the latest strike against Ingredion in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 1 after union members voted unanimously to reject Ingredion’s “last, best and final offer” to resolve a series of issues that had prevented a new contract from being approved. The two sides have met several times since then, but no further talks are currently scheduled, union and company officials say. Several issues between the two sides have been resolved, but three key issues remain outstanding, local union president Mike Moore said in December, including scheduling changes that would eliminate the third-shift maintenance crew, a reduction in overall vacation time, and the company’s unwillingness to guarantee “amnesty” to union workers based on issues that have arisen since the strike began. Ingredion spokesperson Becca Hary didn’t offer an official company response to the statements from the firefighters and Sen. Sanders. “Our last in-person meeting with the union was in December, and we have remained in close communication with union leadership with the assistance of a negotiator since then,” she said Jan. 5, “and we’re hopeful they present the latest proposal to their members.” That proposal, outlined in packets mailed to union workers Dec. 13 via UPS, provided updates to the company’s offer to employees. The offer “incorporated feedback from the union and included numerous adjustments to our previous proposals and achieved many mutually beneficial items,” according to a company statement. Among the adjustments cited by Ingredion, based on the latest negotiations in late November and early December: Annual increases ranging from 3.5% to 7.4% for all employees, with about 80% in the form of pay increases and the remaining 20% as a lump-sum amount; elimination of the two-tier wage structure, addressing “a major request from the union”; new positions with growth opportunities; and an enhanced health care package with wellness incentives and other coverage improvements.