Looking back

Sour notes, still

After taking to the picket lines April 1, 2006, members of United Auto Workers Local 364 are still on strike.

The union has been on strike outside Conn-Selmer's Vincent Bach musical instruments factory at 500 Industrial Parkway in Elkhart since April 1, 2006.

Recently, lawyers for the union conducted arguments in a National Labor Relations Board hearing to determine the results of a decertification vote held in November. More than 140 ballots were disputed from a Nov. 7 election to determine whether the union will continue to represent Vincent Bach workers.


Workers' unease leads to UAW's success in Atlantic City

Caesars Atlantic City dealers voted by 80 percent in March for the United Auto Workers, sparking momentum for the UAW's citywide casino employee organizing drive. Dealers historically have been difficult to organize, but the UAW was able to win six elections at four properties - although it lost three elections as well - because of a growing feeling of unease about health care and job security among casino employees.

That's been a boon to the UAW, which has been securing historic triumphs in organizing casino dealers across the country as it looks to shore up its declining membership outside the troubled auto industry. Still, with several election victories tied up with the National Labor Relations Board months later, it remains to be seen next year whether the UAW can successfully negotiate contracts with casinos bent on keeping the union out.

That may also give management at casinos where workers voted for the UAW time to regain workers' allegiance.


Top Iowa Business Stories of 2007

In January, Democrats who control the Iowa Legislature introduced "fair share," a plan that would allow public-sector unions to negotiate for the right to charge a service fee to nonunion workers. The bill, which passed the Senate and died in the House, turned into one of the most controversial business issues during the 2007 session.

Critics of the measure said it was the first step toward dismantling Iowa's right-to-work law, while supporters said it was a matter of fairness for unions.

One of the most ardent opponent, the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, warned it would cost the state jobs and new business development. The Chamber argued that would be particularly a concern in Sioux City and Northwest Iowa, which borders two other right-to-work states, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Most Democrats and their allies in organized labor contend that non-dues paying workers currently are getting a free ride from the unions forced to represent them. The unions, they argue, should have the ability to collect fees to cover the cost of such services as contract negotiations and negotiating contracts and filing grievances.

Prolonged worker strikes ended at two Sioux City businesses in 2007, while another kept going.

In May, union employees at the Smurfit-Stone Container plant, 1540 Tri-View Ave., broke a 10-week strike after ratifying a new contract of a Sioux City box-making company broke a 10-week-long strike as they ratified a new contract that includes a general wage increase of 7 percent over the next 4 1/2 years, a $1,200 lump sum payment to each employee and a guaranteed minimum number of Saturdays and Sundays off.

About a month later, about 95 workers at Prince Manufacturing's Sioux City plant at 4600 S. Lewis Blvd. ended a nearly three-month labor stoppage. The two sides agreed to a new contract that includes a $1.90 general wage increase over the next four years, a better pension plan and concessions on the insurance issue, according to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Siouxland Lodge 1426. The Machinists Local 1426 also represents the Smurfit-Stone Container workers.

Meanwhile, a yearlong strike continued at Standard Ready Mix in Sioux City and Ludey's Ready Mix in Vermillion, S.D. The company has since hired replacement workers. Some striking workers have crossed the picket line and returned to work, according to the company.


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