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Strikers say community support is strong

By JOE CENTERS • Updated Sep 5, 2017 at 10:23 AM

For most people, Labor Day is a time families gather for picnics on the unofficial final day of summer.

One picnic stood out Monday, as drivers at Maple City Ice in Norwalk gathered on the picket line with friends and family as their strike reached Day 4.

People honked their horns in support of the eight drivers as they drove by the beer plant in U.S. 20, while others stopped. One man, a fellow union worker who went on strike in 1999 at Janesville Products, stopped to give his moral support. Another man, who said he was a retired auto worker, dropped off a 12-pack of pop.

“We’ve had that happen all weekend,” said one of the strikers. “We have received a lot of support.”

The eight drivers, members of the Teamsters Local 20 who all have at least 20 years of service to the company, said the strike is all about their pensions and the company pulling their money out of the pension.

“This isn’t fair,” said another driver. “We have worked too long and too hard for this to happen.”

Rob Rhineberger, of Norwalk, is a former Janesville employee who knows what it is like to go on strike.

“I support unions and I am coming out just to hang out with these guys to support them during their time of negotiations,” Rhineberger said.

“In ‘99 we went on strike and the community came together for us and I wanted to return the favor. It’s awesome. If you don’t get any support from the community then you feel like you are eight guys on an island. It’s great they are getting support. I think more guys from Norwalk should come out and support them.”

Rhineberger said the strike against Janesville lasted just 3 1/2 days.

“The company came back and said ‘We know you mean business, so they said let’s talk.’ Hopefully they get to do the same tomorrow, maybe.”

Maple City Ice released this statement Friday afternoon:

“Maple City Ice Company has about 100 employees working out of locations in Norwalk, Elyria and Mansfield. Only eight delivery drivers in Norwalk, who are members of the Teamsters union, are on strike. All of our locations, including Norwalk, are open for business, and we will continue to sell and deliver beer as usual.”

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