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Building Solidarity with workers on strike at GR Gravel

July 29, 2012

One thing we were all reminded of with the onset of the Occupy Movement was the glaring disparity between the rich and the rest of us.

This writer was reminded of that disparity yesterday, while attending Day 10 of a strike being held by the workers at Grand Rapids Gravel.

Members of the Teamsters Local 406 are on strike because the company owner was demanding a $6.00 an hour pay cut from his workforce. In talking to  a 17-year employee and Teamster member, we discovered that the last time the workers received a raise was in 2000, and the raise was just 50 cents. This means that it has been 12 years since the workers have received any kind of raise and yet they are being asked to take a $6.00 an hour pay cut.

The strike rally was being held yesterday across the street from a golf course, one that the owner of Grand Rapids Gravel Andy Dykema owns. The plush golf course is not all that he owns in addition to the gravel company. According to Teamster member Bill Steckling, Dykema also owns this large condo project near the golf course.

To illustrate the absurd level of wealth that Dykema possesses, another member of the Teamsters told a story while those on strike gathered to share information. The Teamster members said that one day Dykema was out near his property and he and one of his constituents were looking around. Dykema then says to the man, “that sure is a nice piece of property. We should own it.” The constituent responded by saying, “You already own it.”

When Dykema demanded that the workers take a $6.00 an hour pay cut, the union met and they did agree to take a $3.26 per hour pay cut, but the boss responded that it was $6.00 and nothing less. Disgusted with the owner’s unwillingness to compromise, the workers called for a strike.

Bill Steckling then told us that the company hired a strike breaking lawyer, who has brought in Pinkerton Guards to protect the company’s property and is working with what they believe is an Illinois firm that is hiring scab workers from out of state to replace the workers on strike. No one at this point has been able to identify the Illinois firm nor where the workers are coming from.

About 80 people made up of striking workers, family members and people from the community, came out yesterday to show solidarity for the workers on strike. The group was picketing across the street from the Dykema-owned golf course with signs, banners and a Teamster semi-trailer.

After hours of picketing, the group then gathered to hear a few speakers discuss the campaign. One Teamster member said that there was already support from other unions, like the UAW, SEIU, the local labor council and the IWW. After the speakers, everyone was invited to share some food that had been prepared, which allowed people more time to talk informally and build solidarity.

IWW members Deirdre Cunningham said of the strike, “It was important for me to come out today and stand with the striking workers in strength & solidarity. It takes a lot of courage to sign up for such uncertainty as a strike, and people need to see the support of friends, the network of shared resources available to them, to continue to stand strong for what we know is right.”

Cole Dorsey, also a member of the IWW and a labor organizer added, “The Grand Rapids IWW has a good relationship with the Teamsters local 406. Regardless of this we would have joined them in solidarity because we feel workers in struggle anywhere is an issue for workers everywhere. We joined them on the picket line today and will continue to do so until they win. One of our mottos is “the longer the picket line the shorter the strike.”

The Teamsters welcome any kind of support that people can offer, particularly the kind of solidarity by showing up and standing with them in their strike against greed. Go to this link to find the various locations where the workers are on strike and have a presence.

We also spoke with Teamster organizer Craig Salzwedel yesterday on camera. Here is the brief interview we did with Craig where he talks about the strike and the issues the union has with the company.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2012 7:53 pm

    Reblogged this on The Wobbly Goblin.

  2. george permalink
    July 29, 2012 9:32 pm

    So let me understand this fully….Because Dykema is allready wealthy he should use that wealth to support a company ( that may or may not, i dont know, be loosing money ) ? How much are you drivers making before the proposed $6/hr pay cut? I may consider you wealthy in comparison to myself…..basically im asking is it worth it to have to look for another job that will pay you as much as you are cirrently making, keeping in mind you would not have seniority and would be low man again working your way back towards the top. I dont think that job exist for you to find. I do however understand frustrations about irregular work hrs, but over the road drivers still have it worse in my humble opinion.

    • July 30, 2012 1:49 am

      George, I’m not sure I follow your point here. I don’t know how much the drivers make as I am not one of the striking workers, just someone who wrote about and supports the strike. I do believe that it is unjust what Dykema is doing, considering his vast wealth, that he has not given his workers a pay raise in 12 years and is asking them to take such a sizable pay cut.

    • Betsy permalink
      July 30, 2012 1:55 am

      These workers are not bringing home tons of money. A 6 dollar pay cut would be very difficult for them and their families they are trying to support. I think it is very honorable of them to even agree to a three dollar an hour pay cut. Dykema is running his company into the ground. It’s a shame. Especially for the guys that have been there thirty plus years.

    • August 3, 2012 12:54 am

      The drivers are at $17.70 an hour. Personally, for what the drivers go thru, This is not very much. They drive a 90,000 lb truck, people assume this truck can stop on a dime, they also get into very dangerous positions on the job sites. So really $17.70 is not nearly enough, yet when the contract talks first started, the drivers asked for nothing. Not a penny more!! Just keep us where we are at and for the next three years we would be content. But the Gravel Company said no, $6.00 cut or quit or go on strike. they would not even consider our offer of $3.26 give back per hour to the company. So who is negotiating in good faith here.

      • Thomas Smith permalink
        August 7, 2012 2:40 pm

        Thank you Deb

  3. AABBM permalink
    July 30, 2012 3:30 am

    These men work very hard and deserve every dime they make. It is preposterous for Mr. Dykema to demand such a cut from these men. I don’t believe there are many people that could afford to keep food on the table with as drastic pay cut as he’s asking for! If you ask me it’s just down right greedy of him to expect this! I bet if you added up every $6/hr cut from every man employed by Mr. Dykema for a year and subtracted that amount from Mr. Dykema’s annual salary, it wouldn’t even put a dent in his bank account! Why doesn’t he give that a try before ripping it out of the hands of the middle class blue collar worker! Shame on you Mr. Dykema!!

  4. mark permalink
    July 30, 2012 10:27 am

    As a former dykema employee i can say that i 100 % support these striking employees. It has been proven that the dykemas, all of them, are out for themselves alone. They dont care about their employees well being. Its not only the gravel company employees that they have been screwing, but most of their employees at dykema excavators and coit ave gravel have been getting screwed too. Wake up andy and sons, maybe you should care about your employees and their families as well.

  5. Cindy permalink
    July 31, 2012 2:45 am

    Seriously, this is basic stuff. If a person is making a middle class wage they can afford to build a new house that will create business for the cement company which in turn will create more wealth for the owner. It is called capitalism. Corporationism, what the greedy companies have decided is best for them and their families in the short term and that is all that matters. Open your minds and understand you can open a business but if no one is able to buy your product you will go out of business. People in china are not going to buy cement from American companies. I did before they moved my job to China. Working for GM and making a good wage we bought new cars every 6 months, that is what made them successful before the corporate greed took over. The new employees being paid $14.00 an hour will not be buying new cars @ $30K Plus. A family friendly wage is nothing people should be looking down on, or jealous of, it is what stimulates the economy. It is the true job creator.
    Corporate tax breaks are no different that welfare, just on opposite ends of the playing field, they both expect something based on their financial status but do not have to contribute to get the hand out. Stand strong!! You are hard workers and deserve every penny you are making or should be getting a rise!

  6. Cindy permalink
    July 31, 2012 2:45 am

    raise. lol

  7. george permalink
    July 31, 2012 4:49 pm

    The over the road drivers havent had a pay raise in the last 20 some years….how do you think that effects them? Exapecially the owner operators that have had to deal with the increased fuel prices over that time….my point is simply this, better to have a job that you can scrape by on then no job at all….none of the gr gravel drivers are going to be able to leave their current job and walk into a job makin as much as they currently ( before any pay cut ) are. Jobs are few and far between, be happy you all can get aa much as an over the road driver in a week but still have the luxury of being able to go home and even spend 30 min with your family……some of us dont have that option.

    • Cindy permalink
      August 1, 2012 5:55 am

      Your way of thinking George is what will end life as we know it. People like Dykema’s would love to eliminate the middle class so they can steam roll the country and watch as we all struggle to feed our families let alone own a house, they would love to own them all so we would have to pay them all of our money. Middle class wages are what makes the economy continue for the wealthy as we are able to purchase their products. Pretty simple. They obviously don’t care for anyone other than themselves if they can not do the simple math. When the middle class is strong you have a strong economy!

    • mark permalink
      August 1, 2012 12:19 pm

      George it sounds like u are not happy with your job. If thats the case maybe you shouldnt knock other people for fighting to keep their jobs fair. If you have not worked for the dykemas then you have not one clue about what you are talking about. Simple solution, if you are not happy then fix the problem. Dont bad mouth others for trying to fix theirs. Also you keep bringing up otr drivers, that is a total different line of work, so quit comparing them. I have done both otr and construction trucking, there is a difference.

    • Thomas Smith permalink
      August 7, 2012 2:48 pm

      I don’t think you get it I’ve been with the company 26 years you can’t build a lifestyle at a wage and then have them want 20% of your net income for insurance. it took years to build up to what we have now and you can’t take that all the way in one cut. If we have to
      giveback little by little were willing to

    • Allen permalink
      September 15, 2012 1:28 am

      Spoken like a true Republican. Let me guess, Fat, rich, white, and a big Rush L / Fox news fan

  8. Becky permalink
    August 2, 2012 12:59 am

    My dad has worked at GRR for 30 years and a $6/hour pay cut would bring him down to $11. Not to mention that he would lose vacation time and his benefits would also be compromised. I think that the guys agreeing to a $3/hour pay cut is very noble of the them. I think Andy Dykema should be ashamed of himself. These are very hardworking guys and do not have easy jobs! They ride in hot, sweaty trucks in the summer and risk their lives in the winter driving those large trucks in the snow. I think it’s sad that the owner of the company is asking these guys to do this. Disgusting!

  9. AABBM permalink
    August 2, 2012 2:20 am

    Keep fighting for what you deserve men; My family and I will be supporting you the entire way! I am a union nurse and my husband a union teacher and we believe in fairness and rights among working men and women! See you next week on the picket lines!!

  10. george permalink
    August 3, 2012 1:47 am

    Funny thing is if all truck drivers went on strike because they havent had a pay raise in the last 20+ years and fuel / insurance prices do nothing but climb while the make the same rate on their freight and you all didnt get your gas or hoho’s you would all be pissed.

  11. george permalink
    August 3, 2012 1:48 am

    Just some prospective for you all.

    • deb permalink
      August 4, 2012 9:39 pm

      Thanks for the imput George. We know a few over the road drivers, they are doing pretty darn good.

  12. Thomas Smith permalink
    August 7, 2012 2:50 pm

    Any attention to this dilemma is better than no attention thanks Grid

Trackbacks

  1. Grand Rapids Gravel workers strike – Day 16 « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Elections, not worker solidarity, dominates West Michigan Labor Fest 2012 « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  3. Grand Rapids ‘Marx in Soho’ Performance Fri. Sept 21, 2012 – w/ Proceeds to Benefit the Striking Workers of Grand Rapids Gravel | Socialist Party of Michigan

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