Members of Minnesota’s Laborers International Union of America (LiUNA!) Local 563 hit the picket line last week after negotiations broke down between 40 construction craft laborers and the manufacturer Cretex. Working without a contract since the beginning of 2013, workers authorized a strike claiming management has failed to meet requests to negotiate fair wages and pension plans.
According to the union, the last offer presented by Cretex included the company eliminating pension contributions and slashing retirement packages by 80 percent:
“This is a cold slap in our face. Our members had no other choice when their livelihoods were threatened by the greed of Cretex. This isn’t just about pensions; it’s about putting more money in the company’s pocket.”
The last proposal offered by Cretex would have resulted in an hourly wage cut of $2.91-$4.07 (when combining hourly wage and retirement contributions) depending on the age of each worker and the amount devoted to the 401k. On average, this would have been the equivalent of a 12 to 17 percent pay cut.
“Simply put this is a money grab of corporate greed,” said Mackey. “Our members have been hard working, diligent employees for many years and this is the thanks they get. It is very disconcerting.”
Cretex has successfully pillaged pensions at their Iowa and North Dakota facilities. Local 563 workers say they plan to picket until Cretex bargains in better faith and removes the pension slash as a stipulation for a new contract. 563 Representative Steve Buck told the Union Advocate,
We have told them we have no interest in getting rid of our pension, and they continue to bring that forward as the key piece of their contract package. They’ve dug in.”
Local 563 workers have set up a Facebook page dedicated to the strike.