Today Teamsters Local 89 members at Fire King in New Albany, Indiana voted unanimously to ratify a new five-year agreement with their employer, bringing their twelve-week strike to a close with a resounding victory.
All striking Teamsters will return to work on Tuesday, August 2nd after a brief plant shut down on Monday to prepare the factory to run full production for the first time in three months.
Highlights of this strike victory include:
• 22% increase in wages over the life of the agreement, with the first 10% being an immediate increase upon ratification.
• A radically overhauled, low deductible insurance plan that will provide significant savings to members.
• Faster vacation accrual.
• An increased perfect attendance bonus.
• Enhanced seniority and bidding language.
• Juneteenth added as a holiday.
Fire King Teamsters went on strike on May 9th after a unanimous strike approval and a unanimous rejection of the Company’s “Last, Best, and Final Offer”. Throughout the course of the strike, Local 89 worked with members to help them find healthcare options and work they could do in addition to their strike pay. These actions, combined with an immense outpouring of supplies and support from other labor unions and the community at large, strengthened the resolve of these brave members. As a result of their determination and the support they received, not a single Fire King Teamster crossed the picket line during the twelve-week strike.
“It’s a testament to our members that they were able to endure all of this and still come out as winners,” said Local 89 President Avral Thompson. “These folks stood together, said enough is enough, and showed their employer what real union power looks like.”
From the moment the strike began, the Company struggled badly with the loss of their experienced and skilled workforce. Although they released numerous press statements insisting all was well, the plant was running far below 50% production, and was constantly dealing with a revolving door of scab temporary employees who quit almost as quickly as they were brought in.
“This has been a long fight, but our members never wavered. They were determined to win the fight no matter what it took,” said Business Agent Jay Dennis. “These folks are an inspiration, and they’re a perfect example of what the Teamsters are all about. We will go to war for what we deserve, and when we’re united, we will never break.”
As this strike comes to a victorious conclusion, it is important for us to remember that Local 89 and our Fire King members were never alone in this righteous fight. Our picket line was joined by allies and activists of all sorts. From day one until the very last day of the strike, supporters were always stopping by to bolster the spirits of our members. Whether that was a union official, a rank-and-file member, a local politician, or just a passerby who honked their horn in support – the amount of solidarity shown was exceptional.
We would be remiss not to give special recognition to General President Sean O’Brien and General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman who visited the line and spoke to members to show them they had the backing of the entire Teamsters union.
We would also like to give a special thanks to Tim Morris, Executive Director of the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council, who visited the picket line at least once a week and consistently brought supplies for our members.
Although there is no possible way we could thank every single person or organization who showed up on the picket line, we want you all to know each and every one of you was greatly appreciated. Your support and solidarity helped keep morale high and ensure that both our members and the Company learned that when you take on one of us, you take on all of us.
It is our hope that Fire King management and other Local 89 employers across our jurisdiction take the lessons of this strike to heart going forward. A strike is typically a last resort after all other methods of gaining what we deserve have failed. It is not an action that is taken lightly, but it is one that Teamsters Local 89 and our members are absolutely willing to use when necessary. Our union will use every tool at our disposal to achieve the contracts our members deserve. We will not back down, we will not stop fighting, we will not break.
If you doubt the resolve of the members and staff of Teamsters Local 89, you may test that assumption at your convenience.
PS: CALLING ALL TEAMSTERS!
Ronnie Johnson is a long time Local 89 member who has been on strike for the past few months. Last week, just two days after he was featured in our Fire King video, Ronnie suffered a severe stroke and has been in intensive care ever since.
Ronnie is proud Teamster member and has been a great source of inspiration to his fellow workers during their strike. He coined the phrase "89 time" in the smoothest, jazz-like tone you can imagine and it has become a common thing to say during the picket.
Please consider donating to this Go Fund Me for Ronnie Johnson, and support our dear brother and his family in their time of need.