Jeff Blazek: What Ingredion spends in one month to keep us out here in the street is all of our salaries for one year.
Ingredion workers in Cedar Rapids have been on strike for more than 6 months. The specialty ingredient manufacturer brought in record revenue of almost 7 billion in 2022 but tried to pay its workers less and cut their benefits.
James Kirsten: This is mainly a starch production plant, industrial grade starch. So most of the starch is used in paper production, cardboard manufacturing, printing paper, tobacco rolling paper, some textile work where they coat, say, cotton when it goes to weaving machines.
Jeff Blazek: They took our contract and threw it out and came up with a completely different contract.
Trenton Halverson: The company is just taking and taking and it’s time for the people to stand up and get at least their share for the work that we do inside of the plant.
The changes that they wanted to make in our contract was basically control us by taking away our vacation, our guaranteed days off, increasing our insurance, changing most of our benefits, changing to 12-hour days, not paying us time and a half for our time after we work 8 hours.
James Kirsten: We would also be on call with no compensation for our days off, meaning they can call us in whenever they wanted on our days off. Or if we were planning a trip with your family or something, you don’t have guaranteed days off. How do you have a home life, a family life, a social life, anything? You can’t. You’re at their beck and call.
Augusta Zapo Kruger: As a mom, I can’t afford to work more or be forced to work days off when I want to have a quality life with my children.
James Kirsten: We’ve been out a very long time, going on six months now.
Augusta Zapo Kruger: I have had to take a new job. I won’t go back in, I don’t want to cross the line. I’d rather suffer, work elsewhere than take away what we’re doing.
Ingredion Worker: Well, I don’t have a spouse or a partner to help with stuff. So it’s been all on me. I helped take care of, I do take care of my parents. So it’s been—I’ve literally went through all my savings.
James Kirsten: My son’s not going to college now. We can’t afford it yet. We told him to hold back. We’ll probably put off retirement that much longer. We’ve had to switch our medical around. We’ve passed up doctor appointments. We’ve picked up free medicine at the free clinic.
I’m not going to let them beat me. I need to go get another job. My wife’s picking up hours. My kids are trying to work, help out where they can.
Ingredion Worker: This company’s spending as of their third quarter financial reports, $150,000 a day to try to beat these workers.
The workers held the line with support from the community and the diner across the street.
Jeff Blazek: The help that we received from the community is outstanding. They’ll stop and drop off warm food, water, Gatorades. And Lucita’s, they are a lifesaver for us. The free lunches that they serve for us. Coffee’s free. Warm place to go.
Angelica (Lucita’s Diner): When they start the strike, so we come in early on Saturdays and we did a breakfast for them. We made food for them or their kids, you know, at least once, twice a week.
On Jan 22, workers voted to approve a new contract. They stopped Ingredion’s attacks on their pay, time off, and overtime. They also won a 15% pay raise over four years.
Luke Gronewold: This is a union town. We have a lot of different companies that are in this town that they’re all union and we’re all fighting for them as well because they all have contracts that are eventually going to be expiring that they’re going to have to go through and they’re going to have to negotiate and whatever it is that happens here can happen there.
So if we don’t stand up to basically corporate greed, then we’re just setting those companies up to do the same thing to their employees.