Archive for October 12, 2010
Union Member in Keokuk, Iowa: 'We want to work'
By Steve Dunn/Managing Editor
For the second time in eight days, locked out Roquette America, Inc. workers Thursday asked the Keokuk City Council for support.
“All we want is our jobs back,” said John Miller, a member of Local 48G of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union that was locked out by Roquette Sept. 27 after contract negotiations broke down. “We want to work and that’s all we’re asking.”
Roquette won’t come to the bargaining table, Miller added.
Another union member, second generation Roquette employee Richard Moore, said Roquette wants to hire new people who would need three years to get up to full pay.
Two city council members, Roger Bryant and Dan Winn, also belong to the union and have lost their jobs for now.
“All we want is a fair and equitable contract so we can go back to work and support our families,” Bryant commented.
Winn said the ongoing labor dispute divides the city.
“It’s a difficult position to be in to be on the council and in the union,” Winn added. “We need this to be settled. We don’t need another hit.”
Three other city council members – Mike Girard, Scott Nichols and Zane Zirkel – work for Roquette but don’t belong to the union.
Mayor Tom Marion said he spoke to Roquette CEO Dominique Taret earlier in the day.
“I encouraged him to get that bargaining going,” Marion said. “I’ve encouraged him to keep that contract going and people working (while a new contract is negotiated).”
The mayor also invited union members to come to his office and speak to him any time about the situation.
Here's another article in today's Daily Gate
Kearns: Lock out came too quickly
By Cindy Iutzi/Staff Writer
Concerns about the Roquette America, Inc., maintenance and production workers’ union lock out are growing as each day passes without resolution to the labor dispute.
Today is the 11th day since union workers rejected Roquette’s last, best and final contract offer and were kept from returning to work.
As state Rep. Jerry Kearns, D-Keokuk, walked from his car this morning to the Keokuk Business and Professional Women’s breakfast at the River City Mall, he said the company’s action to lock out workers came too quickly.
“I think it was planned,” Kearns said. “It happened so quickly. They didn’t stay at the (bargaining) table long enough. If they wanted people to be able to work, they would have let them work on the contract while they talked. The union said they’d work under the old contract. The company said, ‘No,’ and locked them out. It was not a good faith effort.”
Roquette spokesperson Aliza Golan takes exception with that notion. She said this morning that the company had planned and prepared for covering union workers’ jobs on vote day.
“The union decided before the vote they had no more room to move on the proposals and they stated that the next available date to talk would be Oct. 22,” Golan said. “The company took the proposal that was on the table, moved it closer to the union position and the union rejected it before reviewing the whole contract. Those actions indicate they rushed to reject it prior to receiving it.
“I don’t think the union negotiating team is doing a fair job of representing the employees,” she added.
Golan also strongly refuted the rumors that Roquette is trying to break the union.
“That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our commitment to our employees, the local community and our customers remains unchanged.
“We remain committed to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. I believe the next step is for the union to come back with a proposal that can be discussed.”
Kearns is concerned about the effects of the lock out on the community and Lee County as well as its effects on Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, Local 48G workers. He hopes the two sides can get back to the bargaining table and resolve their differences.
To that end Kearns said he contacted Gov. Chet Culver’s office and asked that both parties be encouraged to come to an agreement.
No matter what happens it’s highly unlikely that the Legislature will become involved.
“There was a strike at Bridgestone in Des Moines that lasted for a year,” he said. “There was no legislative interference there. It would be highly unusual.”
Community letters to the editor on the issue posted at the Daily Gate website:
Bullying won’t work in America, reader says
Roquette says they have invested so many dollars in our Keokuk community and how they value their laborers. I have a different opinion. If they value their employees, why do they make them work swingshift. A different shift each week might be 7-3, 3-11 or 11-7. Sometimes they work two to three different shifts in one week. They are scheduled a fifth crew week to be able to work an extra week of days.
Locked out union workers aren’t asking for much
It truly saddens me to know that a company that my whole family has always respected and stuck up for is now hurting us and the community. I have always thought that if you worked at Roquette then that was the job to have even though you might have to work holidays, weekends and swing shift. It was a place that this community has held to high importance.
Roquette has stronghold on town, union member says
In a time when banks are too big to fail and companies are too big to be told no to concessionary contracts, it’s good to see so much of the community behind Local 48G as they are locked out by Roquette.
And for good measure, on another topic..
Republican pledge doesn’t match the truth
John Boehner, the Republican House minority leader, when introducing the Republican “Pledge to America” made this statement: “We’re not going to be any different than we’ve been.” That’s where the truth ended and the lies began. So, before you take the pledge or buy in to the sound bites you are hearing from the Republican candidates or believe the baseless chain emails you are receiving, please educate yourself on the facts.
Government Too Important To Leave To Business
by Dave Bradley
Some things are simply too important to leave to business.
Republicans often have two mantras that are meant to disparage government in the space of a few words. One is “the private sector can do it better and cheaper” and the other is the term “free market.” Once these words have been put into the conversation, everyone seems to understand that they conjure up certain infallible truths.
For instance, the phrase “private sector” evokes companies that are doing well, thanks in no small part to the fact that the system rewards the very best. The most talented become CEOs and COOs. Costs are driven out as are under-performing workers. As far as I know, no one has yet to stop the conversation there and say, “Perhaps you could explain why so many businesses fail?”
And that is but one of the things I would like to know. When was the last time you shopped at Woolworth’s? Bought a Philco TV? Cruised down the street in your new Studebaker? Watched a game on the Dumont network? Did you have some stock in McLeod like I did?
Even within a company, brands come and go, some never take. Remember the laser disc? Have you washed your hair with Royal Drene lately? Who can forget the Edsel?
If you have haven’t figured it out, the point is that businesses and business leaders are no more gifted or blessed with insight than people in other sectors. Often, if a business is large enough, it can overcome some truly insipid decisions. If they are not big enough, they may be victims of their own choices.
Now, I am sure that many of you have had the experience where a business that you have some interest in – as an investor, worker, customer or supplier – suddenly is on shaky ground or just disappears one day. You lose your investment or your job or perhaps as a supplier, you are on the hook for supplies that have disappeared and have not been paid for. Once you get over the anger and thoughts of revenge, you do realize that in America this happens daily and there is often ‘collateral’ damage.
So let’s say that in the world of totally privatized public services, one of the businesses that is supposed to put out fires in your neighborhood has had to cut staff to maintain their profit. The day that your fire occurs, there are only a couple firefighters on duty and your house burns down completely. Or perhaps you buy some meat that was processed at a plant that was not inspected because the inspection service went out of business. Things such as public safety, health, and education are much too important for the often narrowly focused, get-it-done-cheap-as-you-can business mentality.
Businesses usually set the parameters that they will work within. Government often cannot. And even with setting their own parameters, businesses fail. Going beyond the simple mantra it becomes clear that business and government do not operate the same way. And while business may lend some guide on how to do some things better, it should not be looked at as the only model for government.
If a P&L sheet were all we needed to run government, things would be so much simpler. But, especially in government, that is so not true.
~Dave Bradley is a self-described
retired observer of American politics “trying to figure out how we got
so screwed up.” An
Iowa City native currently living in West Liberty, Dave and his wife
Carol have two grown children who “sadly had to leave the state to find
decent paying jobs.”