A lockout idling 160 union workers at a Plymouth foundry is now in its third week – and the union is reaching out to the rest of the labor movement for support.
A negotiation session Monday brought no progress in reaching an agreement between the employer — Progress Casting Group — and Local 63B of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union, union officials reported.
“The company was not serious about negotiating yesterday,” reported Dale Jeter, executive officer for GMP based in Ankeny, Iowa. He said only two members of the company’s four-person bargaining team came to the meeting. The company offered no new proposals, he said. The union presented information requests and proposals. GMP negotiators took a lunch break and, when they returned from the break, they found company negotiators had left.
Another negotiating session is scheduled for Dec. 2, Jeter said.
GMP represents the workers, whose contract expired Sept. 30. Presented with two concessionary contract offers by the employer, the workers chose not to vote on the proposals and to continue working under the old contract.
Progress Casting Group phoned workers Oct. 26, telling them not to come to work the next day. Workers who did report to work were turned away, Jeter said.
Under state law, workers who are locked out qualify for unemployment compensation. Jeter said workers who already have applied for unemployment expect to receive confirmation from the State of Minnesota this week.
The majority of workers at the plant have worked there over seven years, said Jeff Wilson, St. Paul, a Local 63B negotiating committee member and a Progress Casting employee for nearly 10 years. The workforce is diverse, he reported, including long-time workers plus recent immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, Russia and Croatia. He said workers commute from all parts of the metro area to the Progress Casting Group plant located near Interstate 494 and Highway 55 in Plymouth.
“They have no intention of settling anytime soon,” said Nick Hill, Monticello, bargaining committee chair and a 16-year employee of Progress Casting. He said workers were working overtime before the lockout and that “over the past year, they’ve been building up the inventory.”
Hill said a temporary employment agency set up an office in the plant before the lockout and that an estimated 50 temporary employees now were working there.
“They have enough people right now to pick up the bits and pieces of orders,” said Greg Sticha, Local 63B president. “We’re not expecting any type of resolution until after the first of the year.”
Hill said Local 63B’s locked-out union workers received their last paychecks Oct. 30.
The company recently notified workers that their health insurance was terminated, retroactive to Nov. 1, Jeter reported.
Hill said labor-management relations took a turn for the worse two years ago when company owners brought in a new management team. Grievances jumped from about 20 per year to 70 during the new management team’s first year. The company unilaterally changed workplace rules and schedules, including shifting most workers from a four-day, ten-hour shift back to a five-day, eight hour shift. And, Hill said, “they took away the turkeys at Thanksgiving.”
Local 63B plans to begin leafleting at the plant and also plans a community support rally.
Jeter, Sticha, Wilson and Hill met Tuesday with Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, to update him about the lock-out and to seek assistance mobilizing community support.
Steve Share edits The Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. Visit the federation’s website, www.minneapolisunions.org