Building Illinois-Iowa Solidarity for Locked Out Roquette Workers

by , posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I attended the Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice monthly meeting this weekend to learn about another chapter in the ongoing war on the middle class.  Buddy

Howard, a locked out worker from Roquette, a French-owned company in Keokuk, Iowa, attended the meeting to share his story.  Buddy is one of the 240 BCTGM Local 48G members who have been locked out since Sept. 28, 2010.

After the meeting, Buddy shared his story with radio host Adam Klugman.  You can listen by clicking the link.

Roquette ramps up divisive efforts and locks out workers:
In 1991 Roquette, bought out a grain milling  business in Keokuk, IA that produces many of the starches and sweeteners found in our food. Four years ago Roquette introduced a new employee evaluation program called PEP.  Buddy gave an example of how PEP was used to cut wages and create division in the work place.  During the first year with the new evaluation system, he and another worker performed the same job, but his co-worker received a $1/hour raise while his wages stayed the same.  During the second year, his wages were increased by $1/hour while his co-worker’s wages remained stagnant.  Buddy asked that his $1/hour raise be rescinded because he felt that two workers performing the same job at the same level should receive the same pay.  The company continued to implement similar divisive measures in the work place and used the next round of contract negotiations to divide and conquer.

During the 2010 contract negotiations, Roquette pushed an 11th-hour contract with new language that created a two-tier wage scale.  The new contract allowed Roquette to hire new workers at 33% less in wages.  The negotiations were short and one-sided.

On Sept. 28, BCTGM’s negotiating team read the contract during a union meeting.  By 12:00 noon, members, young and old all voted “no” on the proposed contract. By 2:00 p.m., the workers attempted to return to work, but barricades were already in place and armed guards greeted workers attempting to enter the plant.  The lockout was underway.

Within three days, Roquette hired out-of-state scab workers from Last, Best and Final Staffing,  a union-busting company from Westchester, Ohio.  According to Mr. Howard, the workers were bussed in from all over the nation.

Responding to the Lock Out:

As Roquette turned up the heat, tensions grew along the informational picket line.  A labor rally held in October drew former Governor Chet Culver and Congressman Loebsack. By Christmas time, the rallies and pickets continued in front of the plant, but BCTGM decided to take the fight to the streets.  Twelve workers traveled to the gated communities of Quincy, IL to share some Christmas carols with the wealthy Roquett executives who lived just across the river.  They visited the homes of Dominique Baumann (VP), Paul Janicki (CFO) and Dominique Taret (CEO).  They also visited some of the VIP’s neighbors to hand out flyers.

christmas-carol-flyer christmas-carols christmas-carols-2


Inside the plant, scab replacement workers have experienced numerous injuries to include severed fingers and cuts.  One worker nearly lost an arm.  The company has also had numerous EPA violations.

Outside the plant, community support continues to swell.  Over 72 businesses have put signs up supporting the locked out workers and many of those businesses have brought food to the picket lines.  Other community organizations have pitched in to help with poker runs, church dinners, and endless fundraisers to support the locked out workers and their families.

Solidarity Builds in Illinois to Support BCTGM:

Here in Illinois, Jobs With Justice voted unanimously to support BCTGM Local 48G.  It turns out that the wealthy French Roquette family received healthy state and local tax breaks to build their shiny new training center in Geneva, IL.  Former Governor, Rod Blagojevich gave Roquette an $825,000 grant (that would be a tax-payer funded bailout) as an incentive for Roquette to come to Illinois.  The Geneva City Council also voted to give a total of $52,000 in tax breaks to Roquette if the company would settle in Geneva.  See supporting documents:

After hearing today’s presentation, Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice voted to form a support committee to help organize the next action at the Geneva-based Roquette University.  Roquette University is partially funded by tax-payers and serves as the facility where Roquette brings new customers and conducts product research.  By joining the fight, Jobs With Justice will help mobilize area activists and send a clear message that we don’t want our taxpayer-funded company locking out Iowa workers.

To join the committee, contact Bill Barclay at chocolatehouse at sbcglobal dot net


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Building Illinois-Iowa Solidarity for Locked Out Roquette Workers”

  1. sparky says:

    Who are these people who feel free to put our workers into lock-out for months and months and months?
    I researched the Roquette Freres company from top to bottom. I looked up every chemical, product and all the varied manufacturing processes here and around the world related to this company that I could find.
    How dare our officials offer them subsidies to come to this country when we should be supporting our own American companies.
    How dare Geneva commissioners offer this French company such subsidies?
    How dare that company put our AMERICAN citizen workers in lock-out?
    How dare they get away with manufacturing products that are questionable & most likely harmful to the health of our country’s population and covering up such information? [food additives & corn syrup, plasticizers coating my pills, etc.]
    How dare they pollute our waterways with their environmental accidents?
    How dare they put our workers into personal injury situations on the job?
    We are ignorant of ALL multinational corporations’ influence and their insidious power over our government. We’ll have to be more aware and make it known who these people are and that they are a detriment to our nation, not a helpful asset providing safe products and just & fair jobs & treatment.
    I’ve been upset with much of what has happened to all of us from all angles, and this is but another piece of the puzzle of why we have such economic problems and have become so diseased and have health problems beyond our control.
    Roquette is also involved with 2 other French companies in France to build a geothermal power plant, wonder if they think they can do such here too. I wrote their CEO and asked them if they treat their own French workers with the same disdain, injustice, unfairness and meanness that they treat my fellow American workers here in the midwest.
    We did NOT need this company. And certainly do not need their pollution, unsafe additives in our food/water, safety concerns, nor their corporate misbehavior. We have enough misbehavior and cover-ups in our own companies as well. I wonder which of our “officials” received what benefits from Roquette.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.