FABCON workers strike six weeks, keep overtime


Workers at the Fabcon, Inc. plant in Savage voted May 13 to ratify a new contract offer that maintains their overtime pay, ending a six-week strike that began April 5 as the workers took a stand to preserve overtime pay for weekend work.

The 69 workers, members of Laborers Local 563, returned to their jobs the next day.

“We stayed out there and we fought for the overtime and that’s what we were out there for,” said John Kearney, Prior Lake, shop steward and a 38-year Fabcon employee.

“The Laborers Union is so proud of these courageous members who stood out on the picket line for six weeks to prove to Fabcon that they were strong enough to say ‘no’ to the company’s demands,” said Tim Mackey, business manager of Laborers Local 563. “This is a victory for the workers and the union.”

“We all stuck it out together as a group,” Kearney said, noting that the workers were a diverse group including longtime employees as well as more recent immigrants from Russia, Asia, and Latin America. “Every day, everybody got closer together,” Kearney said.

Workers voted 52-2 to go on strike April 5, rejecting a management proposal that would have cut their wages by an estimated 30 percent by eliminating a long-time pay differential for overtime work on the weekends.

The company routinely insisted workers report to work for the weekend on short notice.

“We didn’t mind working the weekends, as long as we were paid fairly,” said Bob Sticha, New Prague, who has worked at the plant since it opened in 1971.

In the settlement reached May 12, the union reported, Fabcon withdrew the proposal to eliminate overtime pay for weekend work.

During the course of the strike, other union members joined Fabcon workers for rallies and picketing outside Fabcon. Unions also began contributing to a strike fund established for the striking Fabcon workers.

Through a contractor, the company hired temporary workers as strikebreakers in an attempt to keep the plant operating, resulting in the injury of at least one temporary worker, who suffered lime burns to his feet and sought treatment in an emergency room.

After six weeks, Kearney said, the company finally realized “they needed  experienced workers” and “they have a lot of product to get out.”

“Six weeks is a long time,” said Kearney, who served on the negotiating committee. “It was difficult for both sides. I’m sure it was a struggle for (the company) and it was a struggle for us.”

“We’re happy that it’s over and we’re glad to go back to work,” Kearney said.

“A strike is hard on everyone, but we are going to move forward and work toward improving labor-management relations with Fabcon,” Mackey said, “but most importantly now, our skilled, trained members will be getting back to building the high-quality construction materials that has made Fabcon successful.”