Something remarkable happened this past week in Sauk Rapids. An entire shift of workers walked out of Coleman Co. on Monday, May 15. Immediately after, they contacted the Greater Minnesota Worker Center to update us on what had happened.
The workers have had growing concerns for the past six months. This concern came from an HR person who the workers alleged was overstepping her boundaries by coming to the production line to harass workers by pulling their clothes, pushing them physically, following them to the restrooms or threatening to fire workers who voiced their concerns. Some workers have been fired under questionable circumstances as well.
A couple of times before the walkout, workers have shared with us their concerns and we have been monitoring the plant while providing support to workers.
Interestingly, workers have consistently asked the unbecoming behavior to stop and when it didn’t, have asked to meet with the senior management, which has been stonewalled apparently by the power structures at the plant level.
On Monday morning, some of the worker leaders came to GMWC’s office to seek counsel and GMWC provided appropriate advice.
Around 4 p.m., workers walked out united because the plant management has not fulfilled their part of the ‘agreement’ to take the workers’ concerns up the chain of the command.
GMWC board members and staff got involved, conducted broad consultations with community leaders to build support for workers and have invited worker leaders to our office to map their concerns.
GMWC then drafted an issue memo that spoke to the workers’ concerns and has provided copies to the senior management at Coleman Co., including the VP and additional copies to the workers and their leaders. Workers have also presented the issue memo to the senior plant management at a meeting on Tuesday.
In the end, the situation has been resolved to the satisfaction of the workers as the Coleman Co. senior management took full responsibility for the improper behavior of the HR manager. The senior management has also promised to fully address other concerns, including unfair firing, threats of firing workers coming from other employees, and evident prejudicial treatment workers have been concerned about for over the six months.
Management has promised to look into the files of workers who have been fired in the past six months and to bring back workers who have been unfairly fired.
GMWC exists to stand in solidarity with workers in their struggle for improved workplace conditions and we are deeply encouraged by the faith they placed in our organization by reaching out to us with their concerns.