94 UAW Local 1391 members are on strike against CVR Nitrogen in East Dubuque, IL, fighting for wage increases that will keep up with inflation and to protect their 401(k)s.
Workers walked off the job on October 18 after having rejected two tentative agreements, the latest by an 88-2 margin.
For many years, the employer paid into workers’ 401(k)s on an annual basis. However, in 2020, the company stopped contributing to workers’ saving plans, citing the pandemic and the desire to be more financially flexible. CVR has since refused to provide information to the union or to discuss criteria used to determine if a 401(k) match will be provided in the future.
Workers are adamant about securing language in a new contract that will stop the company from being able to unilaterally decline making contributions to their savings plans.
“CVR is financially sound, yet they still took away 401(k) contributions,” Local 1391 President Doug Glab said. “This is a huge problem for our members. It’s got to get fixed.”
The other major issue for Local 1391 members is securing yearly wage increases. The union had proposed a 4% increase per year, 16% total, during the life of a new four-year contract.
“These workers don’t have cost of living adjustments,” Glab explained. “So, inflation has taken a real toll on our membership over the last few years. Given that, 16% wage increases over four years seems very reasonable to us, but the company has refused.”
Since the strike began, management has brought in non-union, at-will workers from its facility in Coffeeville, KS, in an attempt to continue production while UAW members are walking the picket lines.
“At a time when worker power, and perhaps more importantly, their willingness to use it, is at a level unseen in decades, corporations who refuse to negotiate in good faith regarding basic workplace issues like compensation and retirement security are essentially asking for a strike,” said Region 4 Assistant Director, Lucas DeSpain. “Wealthy corporations will either treat their workers with respect and compensate them appropriately or live with the consequences of their disrespect and greed. UAW members know how to handle either scenario.”
“There’s a lot of great guys that work out here that have families,” Glab said. We work nights, weekends, holidays, swing shifts. Basically, what we’re looking for is a good and a fair contract for everybody involved.”