Both IAM Union Members And Eaton Digging In Heals Over New Contract
In October of 2021 when John Deere went on strike across the country an overwhelming amount of union members (over 90%) voted against the contract. However, the second contract would come back better and see only 55% of the union voting no. The third contract was the charm with more negotiations leading to the union ratifying the contract.
The latest union strike in Davenport started similar, with 98% of union members voting no to the new deal. However, after the second contract came back with very few changes and the no vote only changed to 97%, this is feeling different for the IAM Union members at Eaton.
On February 17, the 365 Quad Cities members of the machinists local 388 and 1191 went on strike at Eaton (formerly Cobham) in Davenport. Eaton, a global company with nearly 90,000 total employees, is much like John Deere with recent record results that were achieved in the 4th quarter. While Eaton Quad Cities has nearly 400 union workers, they also employee nearly 500 nonunion workers.
What is the difference between the Eaton strike and John Deere strike?
The first thing to know is that this strike with Eaton is for the 365 Davenport workers. John Deere was a nationwide strike with nearly 10,000 workers on strike.
While John Deere and Eaton both used non-union employees to fill in during their respective strikes, Eaton appears to be preparing to move forward without union workers. The company told Channel 8, "the company will begin the process of finding new workers to continue day-to-day operations due to the amount of time it takes to train employees."
What is IAM saying about the latest contract?
The original contract offer was rejected by 98% of the union. The second contract proposal was rejected by 97%. John Herrig, Directing Business Representative, stated, “If Eaton’s belief was that support within the two bargaining units is waning after two weeks on the strike line, this vote outcome should answer that question.”
The only real change from contract one to contract two, was a change in structure from a 3-year agreement to a 5-year agreement. But the IAM says the length of the agreement was never an issue. “Once again, this was voted down on the issues of healthcare, retirement, and wages, said Jeremy Vercautren Local 388 committee member, “it is questionable that this proposal was any different than the last proposal and our membership saw right through that.”
Joe Allen, President Lodge 388 said, “Our members stand in solidarity, just as important are those members in the bargaining unit that are not dues-paying Union members that are standing with us shoulder-to-shoulder on the line in solidarity. That’s awesome, and we have the utmost respect and appreciation for their support in our collective struggle.”
IAM Union members are not standing alone.
While Eaton's strategy appears to be aimed at breaking the workers and bringing in replacement workers, others at the company and in the community are joining them in solidarity. Salaried employees at Eaton are leaving due to the work stoppage and additional pressure placed on them. According to IAM, several salaried employees have stopped by the strike line to say their “goodbyes” as they leave Eaton for the last time. “It's sad to see some good people from the salaried side leave because of conditions inside,” said James Anderson Shop Chairman for the Local 1191 bargaining unit. “I certainly hope that we can reach an agreement that is competitive with the cost of living instead of Eaton’s lowest-paid facilities.”
IAM members have also been joined on the line by other unions from around town including the UAW and teachers union.
What's next in the Eaton strike?
This is not Eaton's first time at the bargaining table with what unions considered substandard contracts. The global company has reduced salaries at other facilities across the country while profits remain high.
Eaton representatives said they would not be available until sometime the week of March 14th at the earliest while Union representatives say they "remain on standby and available at any time."
So while Eaton may be actively recruiting for new workers to cross the line in order to break the strike, and perhaps break the union, they may be wasting their time and money in their effort. The union and even those around them continue to stay united.
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