These stories are becoming way too familiar. Another profitable company — this one headquartered in France — has once again ravaged a local community by insisting that its workers agree to staggering wage and benefit concessions. The plant is located in tiny Keokuk, Iowa (which lies in the extreme southeastern corner of the state), and the company is the multinational sugar and starch manufacturer, Roquette Freres.
Roquette America, Inc., which has operated the Keokuk facility (a corn milling plant) for twenty years, locked out the 240 members of Local 48G of the BCTGM (Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers) way back on September 28, 2010, after the union refused to accept the company’s greedy demands for concessions.
These workers have now been locked out for over three months. One can only imagine what kind of Christmas they had.
Among Roquette’s demands: a four-year wage freeze for current employees and a $4 per hour pay cut for new hires; a pension freeze for current employees and no pensions at all for new hires; steep increases in health care premiums; the elimination of personal holidays and sick leave; and the right to arbitrarily replace current full-time workers with temps. Simply put, it was an across-the-board assault on the whole contract, the usurpation of 20 years of collective bargaining.
This reminds me of, especially, the plight of city and state workers across the country who are seeing their wages slashed and also getting furlough days. Forlough days are their own special pay cut but when wages are reduced it is even worse. Presumably, when the economy recovers, furlough days will be gone. However, when the economy recovers, a city worker knocked down 5% in their hourly wages will not see that 5% restored. They will probably have to spend several years working back up to where they were.
Which is why Paul Krugman is such a damn joke to me. He refuses to support the workers or explore what is going on with them. Instead, he tries to act like he is Media Matters and monitoring the right-wing pundits. If he had any value at all, it would be in addressing the economic situation.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today: