Argus-Leader from Sioux Falls, South Dakota on May 10, 1987 · Page 6
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Argus-Leader from Sioux Falls, South Dakota · Page 6

Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 10, 1987
Page 6
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6A 10 days of turmoiT Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D. Sunday, May 10, 1987 I v. L i . I I 111 r I S 't' W jgL . " I S I A Argus Leader photo by DAVID BEJ?GELAND Sioux City, Iowa, workers Doug Utech (left) and Mike Sieverding set up at the Sioux Falls plant. FRIDAY, MAY 1 Union workers at John Morrell & Co.'s Sioux Falls .plant stayed off the job, refusing to cross a picket line set up by members of the company's Sioux City, Iowa, meatpacking plant. The Sioux City workers, on strike at their own plant for seven weeks, brought their cause to Sioux Falls after negotiations ended there Wednesday. The company is seeking a $1.25 an hour wage cut at the Sioux City plant. Sioux Falls workers fear the company will seek the concessions here. Early in the day, the company began advertising on television and radio for permanent replacement workers. Company officials said the plant would remain operating with replacements and union members who chose to cross the line. Union representatives said they won't give in to company threats and are prepared to stay out as long as necessary. SATURDAY, MAY 2 Picketing by the meatpackers from Sioux City continued to idle the plant, as company officials said they were confident they could rebuild the plant's work force. Union officials said they caught the company off guard, saying 9,300 hogs in the plant were in need of processing. They s,aid the company was trying to scare Morrell workers into crossing the picket line by hiring replacements. SUNDAY, MAY 3 The union said it had filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the company for refusing to release vacation paychecks to about 125 workers. Company officials said trucks continued to be loaded and products shipped out during the weekend. jl . J .. - LlV '17- V. A. 11 '. W-;! 0 i . , 'jf ' Argus Leader photo by DAVID BERGELAND mm to 0soos PaClte Argus Leader photo by DAVID BERGELAND Strikers attempt to stop a semi-truck from leaving the plant early Monday. MONDAY Violence erupted at the plant as 500 union workers confronted replacement workers hired by the company. At least six people were arrested, two of them after rock-throwing incidents. Police wore riot gear at the scene. Cots were set up inside the plant for replacements who wanted to spend the night at the plant. Circuit Judge R.D. Hurd issued a temporary restraining order to limit the number of pickets to 25. The action allowed the company to get additional workers inside. Union members decided 30 minutes later in a unanimous voice vote to continue to honor the picket. The company stood firm on its stance that the plant would continue to operate. Production inside the plant declined on the first day hogs were killed since the strike began. Company officials said 2,000 hogs would be killed; normally, the plant kills about 1,000 hogs an hour. Gov. George Mickelson said he wanted the union workers to return to their jobs. TUESDAY Rock-throwing strikers and police in riot gear clashed in a second day of violence at the plant. Police arrested at least eight people on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to criminal damage to property. About 400 strikers gathered in front of the plant gate about 5 a.m. to meet non-union replacement workers. Strikers flung rocks, insults and obscenities at the workers, whom they call scabs. Union officials said they did not condone the violence, but the hiring of replacements had angered union members. Company representatives said Hurd's temporary restraining order had not made the area outside the plant safer. The union accused Mickelson of siding with management in the dispute with his remarks about Morrell being a good corporate citizen of South Dakota. rv n if uk ram I Argus Leader photo by DEAN CURTIS Police hold back a striker as he shouts at replacement workers leaving the plant Tuesday. Argus Leader photo by DEAN CURTIS A striker displays his colors Wednesday. WEDNESDAY After a visit by Mickelson and a misunderstanding about whether he had ordered the plant shut down, police hurled tear gas into a crowd of workers gathered across from the plant's main gate. At a news conference, Mickelson said he asked police to restrict access to the plant to maintain the peace. Union members reacted angrily when new replacement workers were allowed in the plant gates. Police teargassed a crowd of union members who were protesting the arrest of a fellow union member a few minutes earlier. About 150 workers screamed at vans carrying replacement workers into the plant. A union official said he thinks company-hired replacement guards overstepped their authority when they sprayed Mace in the face of two strikers. Ariite I Aariar nhntn hv hFAN After more violence Wednesday night, union leader Dennis Foster and a police officer huddle. THURSDAY J Hurd ruled that union members and leaders violated his court order that limited the number of people who could picket outside the plant. In his ruling, Hurd said the union wuld be fined $25,000 a day if they did not comply with the ruling. Fines of $100 a day would be levied against local president Dennis Foster and business manager Jim Lyons. Union officials said they would honor the court order, but would continue their sympathy strike. Hurd also ordered the union to: inform workers that no more than 25 people can gather in front of the plant or within one mile on each side of the corner of Cliff Avenue and Rice Street; tell workers of the restraints at a taped membership meeting; have a news conference urging members and laborers not to go within the Morrell vicinity and not engage in violence. - i ! i m i 1 I Argus Leader photo by DAVID BERGELAND Morrell allows the media to tour the plant Thursday to show that work is continuing. FRIDAY The struggle took a national tone when the international union announced plans to arrange a nationwide boycott of Morrell products. The boycott is in response to the company's hiring of replacement workers in Sioux Falls. SATURDAY In a court-ordered membership meeting. Local 304A leaders told workers about the restrictions of a temporary restraining order on the strike. Union officials told rallying members that they did not condone the violence of the. past week and that the union would now exert economic pressure on the company. In the meeting at the Coliseum, union leaders called for solidarity, as members stood and sang Solidarity Forever to the tune of the Battle Hymn of union leaders Saturday TODAY The second week of the strike at the Sioux Falls plant brings about a different strike strategy, this one designed to hurt the company's pocketbook. Strikers plan an evening rally for non-violence Monday at Nelson Field, 10th Street and Cliff Avenue. This week, union members also will distribute handbills in the city, a 30-minute tape on a local television and stand outside local grocery stores asking shoppers to boycott Morrell products. Argus LeaderDEAN CURTIS Charlie Moore listens to Continued from 1A Dulls golden years for John. Morrell & Co. long-timers gang. And now we're just old dirty packinghouse workers." Times began changing when the company accelerated production under the bottom-line ownership of United Brands, he says. It mechanized at the cost of workers. It demanded more, condoned less and overlooked the daily carnage in stress and lost limbs that resulted from the drive to be more competitive. Then it sought concessions. In 1983, the union agreed to a $2.44 cut in base wages. Pension payments were sliced, too, as well as sick leave and other benefits. "They treated me real fair over the years, until they started cutting wages," Warwick says. "Then it was concessions, concessions. They seem to have gotten a foothold when we agreed to the big cut." But the real sting is the replacement workers. That his old company immediately would set out to replace him without negotiating simply is asking for confrontation. Since he has worked there, nobody ever has come in and tried to take his job. "I don't think the company has to do that. I think for what they're going to spend in a little bit of breakeven money for replacements, they could have settled the thing ..." , Warwick doesn't condone the violence at the plant. But what are the younger workers to do? It's preservation, he says. It's survival. "These people have a right to protect what little they've got ... and that's a job," he says. Yet he's hopeful, too. "I'm almost certain there will be something settled on," he says. "I mean, this is silly. This is childish, doggone it. I just wish they'd start talking." Fighting for wages The violent overtones of the last week scare Marlys Madsen and Linda Hall as they sit in Madsen's living room with their husbands, both retired Morrell workers. "It's a dangerous place to be," Madsen, 55, says of the picket line these days. "I can't see throwing rocks and hunting people." r Ml j ntlilllil I info ' Terry Warwick Linda Hall But just as frightening is the thought that either one of them might be forced out of a job before they are ready to retire. Hall says she couldn't make it on husband Vern's pension if he should die. And if the company succeeds in breaking the union, her own vested pension could be frozen until she's 65, she says. She's 50 now. She wants to work until she's 62. "I've got so many years invested in that place, it's the only thing I've done since I got out of high school," she says. "I wouldn't even know what other job I could do." Madsen's investment goes even ) Don Hintze Marlys Madsen deeper. She has four sons at Morrell. "I don't like to see them without jobs," she says. "I mean, my family is raised and my husband is retired. I think it would be a lot harder on them." Yet no matter how much it appeared that their jobs were on the line, neither woman would cross the picket line. Without the union, they wouldn't have what they have today. Union workers are trying to survive in a place that makes survival hard, Hall says. Her job of standing in a refrigerated room sorting 1,200 hot dogs a minute, leaves her sleepless at nights from the stress. Her body is exposed to so much cold during the day that she doesn't know if it's hot or cold when she walks outside at the end of a workday. Yet after 31 years, what, else would she do? "That's why I can't understand these people coming in as replacement workers," she says. "If it's so bad for us that we have to be doing this, how can they think it would be better for them?" Why don't you quit? Two Easters ago, Don Hintze was working in a cooler at Morrell's when a trolley with 00-pound side of beef careened off tneVails overhead and struck him in the forehead. He needed nine stitches, suffered two black eyes. And the company took him to the clinic, sewed him up and brought him right back so he wouldn't lose a day's pay. He's still bitter. Comoanv officials knew there was a bad switch on the rail, he says. They only fixed it after he was hurt. Yet he remains loyal. On the armchair in his living room, next to a picture from his accident, rests a six-year perfect attendance certificate the company gave him. "I'll never believe I'm not a loyal employee," he says. "I've walked down there in snowstorms, when it was 24 below, out of loyalty." Yet his union loyalty is stronger. ! He doesn't believe the company will replace all 2,500 workers. He doesn't believe union members should return, either, until the two sides start talking. "Their advertising on television doesn't scare me," he says "After all, I don't feel indispensable. Besides, this will end. We will be provided for, and we'll be back in there working." He's confident of that, confident that his career at Morrell is not over. But that doesn't mean he's happy. Too much has changed in the last decade. "People say, 'If you don't like it, why don't you quit?' I have to work there now. I've got in 28 years. What else am I going to do?"

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