Trade union activists from the Steel Workers (USW) and Bakery Workers’ (BCTGM) unions have announced a 1,000-mile journey across America’s heartland to draw attention to a growing national problem: the widespread use of lockouts by corporations intent on depriving their employees of their innate right to bargain collectively.
The journey, which will begin February 22, is being led and organized by locked-out workers from the American Crystal Sugar and Cooper Tire & Rubber companies. While the workers at those two companies are represented, respectively, by the Bakery Workers’ and Steel Workers, this is a problem that affects all trade unionists and is chipping away at the integrity of the nation’s labor laws.
As Professor Gary Chaison of Clark University, an expert on labor relations, notes, “Lockouts were once so rare they were almost unheard of. Now, not only are employers increasingly on the offensive and trying to call the shots in bargaining, but they’re backing that up with action—in the form of lockouts.”
The grassroots campaign, which is being called a “Journey for Justice”, will begin with a rally in Fargo, ND – where American Crystal Sugar is located – and make stops in MN, WI, IL and IN, before concluding in Findlay, OH – home of Cooper Tire.
Paul Woinarwicz, a BCTGM member who has worked for American Crystal for 34 years, summed up the company’s decision to use a lockout as “just another way of trying to break the union…It was just like a knife stuck in your heart.”