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Grand Rapids Gravel workers strike – Day 16

August 4, 2012

Last week we reported that the Grand Rapids Gravel workers went on strike, after the company told them that they needed to take a $6 an hour pay cut or else.

The GR Gravel workers, also members of a local Teamster union, refused the company demands and are in their third week of a strike. Yesterday, I spoke with several of the striking workers at the main Grand Rapids Gravel location in Grandville.

Since last week’s story, the workers found out that the private security company hired from Illinois to patrol the company property is Hoffmaster Security. We could find no online references to this security company, but we saw at least 3 security vans and four security guards patrolling the Grandville facility during the time spent talking with the striking workers.

Most of the guys we spoke with have been with the company since the late 1970s and they confirmed that they had not received a raise since 2000. These workers also confirmed that the reason they believe the company is trying to punish the workers with a pay cut is two-fold.

First, the owner of the company, Dykema, invested heavily in real estate in the last decade and when the bottom dropped out of the real estate market, the owner took a hit. The other reason for the demand to cut workers wages is because the workers are convinced that the owner wants to break the union.

The guys we spoke with said they were making $18 an hour driving truck, but they recently found out that the company is paying scab workers $22 an hour. The scab workers are coming from Indiana, Ohio and some from Michigan. The company has also upgraded some of their mechanics to drive truck, since the mechanics are not union.

During the time we spent with the striking workers yesterday, it was practice to walk with picket signs in front of the gravel trucks as they passed by. The striking workers would also yell at the scab drivers to let them know of their anger that fellow workers would disrespect them by taking their jobs.

Local police were also stopping by during the strike yesterday and at one point were called because the security guards were claiming that the workers put roofing nails on the road at one entrance.

We witnessed the security guards looking at the ground and walking around their van at an entrance to the facility where the strikers were not located and then the security guards drove down to where the striking workers were stationed and began looking around to see if they could find any nails. The striking workers were convinced this was a complete fabrication and just an attempt to get the local police to harass and intimidate those on strike.

Despite such tactics the workers spirits were high and were committed to striking until their demands were met. The Teamsters are providing the striking workers with meals and cold beverages on a regular basis and those we spoke with welcome any kind of solidarity people can provide. Yesterday, there was also members of the Grand Rapids branch of the IWW in solidarity with the striking workers.

Go to this link to find the various locations where the workers are on strike and have a presence.

Update, the name of the security company hired was not accurate. The company’s name is Huffmaster and we posted a story profiling their role in strike breaking.

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