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IAM Local 1855 wins a better contract after strike in Appleton, WI

By staff |
October 26, 2020
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Striking IAM members in Appleton, WI.
Striking IAM members in Appleton, WI. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Appleton, WI - On the morning of October 24, the following message was posted on the social media accounts of IAM Local 1855: “After a week-long strike IAMAW Members employed at AstenJohnson in Appleton overwhelmingly accepted a greatly improved contract offer this morning. This offer included locking in insurance plan design and premiums for the next two years among other positive changes. Their solidarity and persistence paid off big. Congratulations to the members of Local 1855 and a special thank you to the Teamsters Local 662 for honoring our picket line.”

The machinists at AstenJohnson were on strike to demand a decent contract and reasonable healthcare coverage. 89 members of IAM Local 1855 began picketing on October 16, despite wind and rain, to push for affordable healthcare from their employer.

“We don’t want to absorb all the costs of the insurance as it keeps going up. That’s what we’re doing out here,” said a striking machinist. “We went out for one day ten years ago, this is our first strike since then. It’s a week today.”

On October 14, they rejected a proposal from their employer. Negotiations were ongoing inside the building on October 23 while the picket continued outside. The workers said that the proposals their team submitted would benefit not only members of IAM Local 1855, but the Teamsters and non-union employees of AstenJohnson as well.

Members of the community showed up to the picket line in solidarity with the striking workers, bringing hot soup and tea. A local volunteer organization, Food Not Bombs, set up mutual aid tables with fresh produce at the end of the picket line for the workers' families.

Around noon, security emerged from AstenJohnson, demanding that Food Not Bombs leave even though they were on the sidewalk. A security guard, whose badge read J. Steinke, immediately called the police. Members of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department arrived shortly after to ensure that a grill was moved fully onto the concrete and no longer touching the grass. During this time a member of the community went to move their car, a security guard followed them, photographing their face, their car and their license plate.

The most aggressive of the security guards turned out to be Jay Steinke, the now-retired Appleton police officer who shot and killed Jimmie Sanders, a Black man and unarmed bystander, in Jack’s Apple Pub in 2017. Steinke was never charged for his role in Jimmie Sanders’ death. Instead another man named Henry Nellum, who officer Steinke also shot that night (just not fatally), was convicted for the crime and is serving time in prison.

What this goes to show is that when workers stand up and fight back and utilize their power over production by shutting it down, they can win big.

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