After a hard fought 127 day strike the Iron 5 have prevailed against Specialty Minerals Inc. The workers and the company announced a tentative agreement this week that included all of the workers demands.
We offer our heartfelt congratulations to these five brave men who have been out there every day since Jan. 1, from to , walking the picket line. They endured a lot of brutal weather, the absence of a paycheck and the uncertainty that inevitably comes from taking on a deep pocketed corporation like
But despite the odds, they stood their ground, refused to accept the concessionary
contract SMI was demanding, and they won! And
in doing so they have inspired workers across the region!
SMI workers are members of United
Steelworkers Local 11-63, the same union local that represents the workers at
the Sappi paper mill that the SMI plant shares a campus with. SMI makes a clay slurry that is used in
the making of high end paper products at the Sappi mill.
They went out on strike following nine months of bargaining, three contract extensions and a steady barrage of deep concessionary demands by
SMI. Finally enough was enough, and the
five workers voted unanimously to reject the company’s final offer and went out
on an unfair labor practice strike at on January 1,
The union had filed unfair labor practice charges against
SMI for failing to bargain in good
faith with the union by failing to provide requested, relevant information
necessary for collective bargaining.
Key issues in contention were health insurance, pension funding and the definition of “work-week,” along with a company demand for no hourly pay increase in the first year of the agreement.
During the strike
SMI tried to keep their plant going by
importing scabs from its other plants all over the country. Not being familiar with the specific
processes used by the SMI plant in Cloquet, the scabs caused a number of screw ups
that resulted in a lot of low quality and spoiled product. And at times that scabs attempted to file complaints
against the strikers with the police, and at one point attempted to push their
vehicles through the picket line.
For their part, the strikers defended their picket line, no matter what the weather or what provocation the scabs threw at them.
Throughout the strike a number of supporters showed up to walk the line from the Sappi plant, other Steelworker locals, Socialist Action, the IWW and misc. unions in the region. Supporters also succeeded in raising tens of thousands of dollars in donations that helped the strikers keep gas in their vehicles, and the lights and heat on at their homes during the long strike. A highlight of fundraising was the spaghetti feed at the
on Apr. 27 that drew hundreds of
people and raised $3,500. Other
demonstrations of support included a solidarity car caravan from the Cloquet Labor Temple , BBQs on the picket line, and a
number of on site rallies. Twin Ports
All in all this was a very inspiring strike, and one that no doubt will set a positive example for workers throughout the region for how to fight and win! We salute the Iron 5! Well done brothers!
> The article above was written by Adam Ritscher of United Steelworkers Local 9460.