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What's next as strikers return to work?

By Joe Centers • Feb 6, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Nobody wins in a strike.

For five long months drivers at Maple City Ice Co. in Norwalk were on strike. It started Sept. 1 and lasted through January. It finally ended quietly Jan. 27 when the tent came down and the drivers went home.

Pat Hipp, president of Maple City Ice, said this last week when asked about the strike coming to an end:

“The Maple City Ice Co. strike is over. The Teamsters union representing the striking workers made an unconditional offer to return to work effective Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, which the company accepted. Thank you to our many loyal employees and customers who supported us during this time,” Hipp wrote in an email.

We tried to get comments from the drivers’ side, but the Teamsters have been quiet throughout most of the strike.

I was there Sept. 1 when the strike started and I talked to the drivers. I took a photo of the strikers (seven of the eight were there and one was on vacation). As I talked to them one thing jumped right out at me — the trucks all were out delivering beer.

“Where are the trucks?” I asked the drivers. 

While these eight drivers were on strike, the seven other drivers were in a different “local” under a different contract. They continued to work.

The seven later joined the strike, but some of them went back to work.

How does that happen?

That’s not a strike. A strike is when you shut work down. I guarantee you if work had stopped and beer deliveries were halted, the strike would have ended in a day or two.

I was born and raised in Detroit and we know all about strikes there. When I grew up the two strongest unions in the world were the Teamsters and the UAW. 

When the Teamsters went on strike they showed up with bats and guns. If those trucks would have tried to cross the picket line somebody would have shot out the truck tires and if they were in a bad mood, the driver would have been next in line.

I’m not saying that was a good thing and I’m glad those days are over.

But through it all I don’t think the eight local drivers got much support from their union.

The biggest thing about this strike is all eight drivers live here. They are our friends. They are our family. A lot of them are related to the Hipps.

It was a tough five months for everybody involved.

It was all over the failing Central States Teamsters Pension Plan. How long will it last? Nobody knows.

These drivers have been working for years and investing into this plan. This is their future.

The Hipps said it was time to stop throwing money into a failing fund.

That, in a nutshell, was the biggest stumbling block of the strike. There was no give and take, because the two sides weren’t even on the same page.

The drivers have lost five months of wages they never will get back. They did get strike pay, but it wasn’t close to what they were making.

So what now? The drivers are back to work but there are plenty of scars.

Nobody wins in a strike.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at jcenters@norwalkreflector.com.

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