It’s been nearly a month since about 200 workers at Manitowoc Cranes went on strike because of a contract dispute between the company and the Machinists Union. The union is objecting to language in the contract that would require them to recertify every year and makes it so employees no longer need to be a part of the union.
While members of his union inside the factory are not covered under the proposal, Dave Boetcher with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers says the last minute inclusion of that language should have workers around the state worried. Speaking at the state Capitol building in Madison Monday, Boetcher says the contract shows the fight over collective bargaining is moving from the public to the private sector.
Boetcher says the proposal is almost identical to the language included in Governor Scott Walker’s proposal earlier this year that requires most public employee unions to hold an annual vote on recertification. He says it’s all about “union busting.”
Manitowoc Cranes workers rejected the contract on a 180 to 2 vote, but Boetcher says the message is clear that “the fight that started in Madison is now in Manitowoc.
State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) says the contract dispute is likely just the first attempt to bring Walker’s changes to the collective bargaining powers of state employees over to the private sector. Pocan says it’s just a matter of time before other companies consider similar language in contracts.
Pocan says he’s also concerned about the fallout from the machinists strike on other workers. Several companies outside the factory have laid-off employees in recent weeks, but those workers have been unable to collect unemployment benefits because the jobs were lost due to the strike. Pocan plans to draft legislation aimed at closing that loophole.
Officials with Manitowoc Cranes have declined to comment on the contract dispute.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:04)