Workers rally as Ingredion strike reaches one month

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Around 300 people rallied in support of striking workers at Ingredion’s Cedar Rapids plant on Thursday evening.

Around 115 workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) Local 100G have been on strike for one month as of Thursday. Disputes over wages, benefits and workers’ rights are stopping the union and company from reaching a deal.

Jean Lincoln, who was at the rally on Thursday night, said she’s been working at the plant for 30 years. She said she was wondering if she needs to find a new job after not working for a month.

“Do I look for another job or do I stick it out,” Lincoln asked. “And we’re sticking it out. We’re in it for the long haul.

Lincoln said details in the contract offer around wages and workers’ rights like adding an on-call requirement are unfair in her opinion.

Mike Moore, who is the president for the BCTGM Local 100G Union, said potential changes in health insurance are some of the biggest obstacles to a deal. He said his members are frustrated with a higher premium payment.

Becca Harry, who is a spokesperson for Ingredion, said the $500 increase only applies to families, which is about 27% of its workers in a text message. She said individuals would see an increase of about $120 a year and emphasized the coverage is more comprehensive and have wellness incentives workers can earn.

“Ingredion expressed its willingness to negotiate with the union on 8/26/22 and awaits a response from their bargaining committee,” Harry wrote in an email.

She said the company offered a $50 increase to the amount employees receive for work shoes in 2023. Then, a $10 increase every year until 2026.

Ingredion said it has also offered 80% of employees an increase in wages from 3.5% to 7.4% in a written statement it updated on Thursday. The other employees could receive a lump sum payment of $2,200 or the ability to bid on a job, which allows people to select an alternative job based on contractual rights.

A spokesperson also said the company proposed a job grading system, which included the role of Safety Coordinator, Electrical and Instrumentation, and Chemical Handler. She said those positions had an 8.1% increase in pay above its highest paid roles.

In a press release, Ingredion’s CEO called its second quarter the company’s strongest since 2017 and reported an increase in net sales by 16%.

Multiple state and local lawmakers were at the rally in support including Rep. Molly Donahue (D-Cedar Rapids), Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids), Sen. Todd Taylor (D-Linn County) and Secretary of State candidate Joel Miller.

Sen. Liz Mathis (D-Linn County), who is running for the 2nd congressional district, also attended the rally. She said she supported the workers in the dispute against the company.

“They should give you what you need and what you want for your families,” Sen. Mathis said.

Sen. Mathis is running against Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-01), who is running for her second term as a congresswoman. Hinson wasn’t at the rally, but a spokesperson sent a written statement to TV9 in support of the workers.

“I am grateful for the contributions of Ingredion workers to our local economy,” she wrote. “All workers deserve fair compensation and benefits and have the right to negotiate with their employer.”

Hinson said she hoped for a resolution to the strike soon, which was reiterated by Sen. Grassley in a written statement.

Admiral Mike Franken (D), who is running against Sen. Grassley said in a written statement he also supported the workers.