Cedar Rapids labor union weighs in on ripple effect of strikes

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) More than 500 union workers at General Mills in Cedar Rapids voted down a contract proposal on Wednesday night, increasing the risk that the workers could go on strike if an agreement cannot be reached soon.

Workers picket outside of Penford during a labor dispute in 2015 (KCRG File)

Local labor unions say this would not be the first time a strike like this has happened in the area.

The Hawkeye Area Labor Council’s Executive Director, Rick Moyle, said in recent years, the most notable strike of this magnitude involved Penford workers negotiating a contract with Ingredion in 2015.

Moyle said the effects of any strike really depends on how long it goes on, but throughout his experience with labor union work, he said, most of the time, workers are just looking for job security, a small raise, and benefits to take care of their families.

He said he is not speaking for RWDSU or union leadership at General Mills, but said with any strike financial impacts could follow.

"There could be obviously a trickle effect coming into the holidays. Obviously, if people aren't in there making a wage, that is going to effect the community at different levels,” Moyle said. “Obviously, they are not going to be spending as much, whether it be restaurants, or clothing stores.”

Moyle added with these types of strikes, the biggest negative impact is always on the workers. He said he doesn't believe a strike would hurt attracting big businesses to come to a place like Cedar Rapids or any city.

"It shouldn't if you're a good company and have a good management team, and you’re a good corporation and are willing to pay your employees a fair wage, for a fair days work, and you are willing to give them benefits,” Moyle said.

Both sides of the dispute agreed to meet on the morning of Thursday, November 7, to see if an agreement could be reached.