On Tuesday, August 1, 84 members of Local 997 went on strike at Thombert, Inc. in Newton, IA, after the company refused to bargain until just a week before the current collective bargaining agreement was set to expire on July 24.
Workers at Thombert produce polyurethane wheels for electric forklifts. They are fighting for fair wages and healthcare costs, a better work-life balance, and to maintain the current Accident and Sickness benefits which currently begin on day one of a claim. The company is proposing that Accident and Sickness benefits should begin on the eighth day instead.
“We brought the company’s offer to the members, and it received a 90% NO vote,” said Local 997 President Steve Wertz.
“I didn’t want to go on strike but there is no movement from the company, even after the proposal was voted down by 90%,” said Local 997 member, Jason Wickman. “There is a disconnect with management. The company is waiting to see if we crack and cross the line. We’re together. Solidarity is shining through.”
“Members all over Region 4, and the entire UAW stand with our UAW family at Local 997 in Newton, IA, while they fight to improve their work-life balance, amongst other things, against the all too typical greedy corporate bosses,” Region 4 Director Brandon Campbell stated. “Even with 150,000 of our members in the Big-3 nearing their contract deadline, members at workplaces of all sectors and all sizes have the full support of the UAW and Region 4. Our members demand, and will win, dignity for the work they do. When all the forces of the labor movement are pushing in the same direction, we will not be stopped!”
UAW President Shawn Fain acknowledged Local 997 members’ fight on his Facebook Live Tuesday evening: “Just this afternoon, our members who make forklift wheels and tires at Thombert in Newton, Iowa, went on strike. They’re members of Local 997, Unit 8. All of us understand the issues they are striking for: fair wages so they can support their families, vacation time so they can be with their families, short-term disability benefits, and shift rotations that every factory worker deserves.”
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