Striking union members and their supporters filled the Shakopee City Council chambers in an appeal to local leaders for their help resolving the month-long work stoppage at Cretex Companies’ concrete plant inside the city limits.
“What’s going on right now is not good for Shakopee,” Tim Mackey, business manager of Laborers Local 563, told the council at its meeting last Tuesday. “We’re looking for you, as leaders of the community, to reach out, to break the ice and try to help.”
Local 563 represents 38 Cretex workers who went on strike June 19 after working more than five months without a new contract. Negotiations broke down after management insisted on a contract that would allow Cretex to stop contributing to workers’ pension plans.
Workers say the company’s proposal would reduce their compensation by 12 to 17 percent at a time when demand for Cretex’s products – manhole covers, sewer pipes and other construction materials – is on the rise. More, the proposal would cut workers’ retirement packages, which workers have been funding in tandem with the company for years, by as much as 80 percent.
Shakopee resident Steve Bistrum, a Cretex employee for the last 21 years, told City Council members the strike is taking a toll on the local economy.
“We feel we contribute quite a bit to the City of Shakopee, a lot of money to the local area and local businesses,” Bistrum said. “We’d still like to keep that going. We’d like to stay in this area. It’s as simple as that.”
Acknowledging that council members “don’t have a magic wand,” Mackey distributed draft statements of support he hoped they would consider signing. The statements encourage Cretex “to work toward a solution that ensures the company’s viability” while preserving workers’ “hard-earned retirement benefits.”
Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke said the Council would not take immediate action on the union members’ request, but he thanked Bistrum and other workers for bringing the strike to council members’ attention.
“I’m very glad you came to show us what’s going on, what’s happening,” Tabke said. “We’ll look at it, and I’m sure we’ll be in touch.”
Members of Local 563 will remain on the picket line, located at 7070 Cretex Avenue South in Shakopee, until the company is willing to negotiate respectfully, Mackey said in a statement after the meeting.
“We aren’t going anywhere. Our workers have put in a lot of hours and have made sacrifices to ensure they can retire and live with a secure future,” said Mackey. “The more we can educate city leaders and the general public, the more pressure we can put on Cretex and hopefully make them see that taking away worker-funded pensions is unethical and unfair.”
Michael Moore edits The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation.