There is a growing economic challenge here in Southeast Wisconsin and beyond, involving workers and companies trying to balance wages with record inflation.
More than 265 Vollrath Company workers have been on strike for four days. They are members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 1472. Their labor contract expired April 1st. Three days later, they invoked their right to stop working at the factory located at Kohler Memorial Drive and 18th street in Sheboygan.
Vollrath Company makes commercial cooking and serving equipment.
“The cost of gas is higher than it’s ever been,” said Richard Endres, a long-time Vollrath Company employee. "The cost of food is at least double what it used to be. Yet, the company offered me the same raise they did five years ago. That’s unacceptable in these times. The cost of everything is increasing and our wages are stagnant.”
“Our families deserve more,” said Scott Rogala, who also works for Vollrath Company.
“A 2% raise doesn’t cut it when inflation is 8%,” said Lincoln Gregory, another employee who has been picketing outside Vollrath Company.
These messages are shared by workers at Ardagh Group in Burlington, who indicate a strike is looking imminent.
“We’re just trying to get a fair contract that helps us deal with the realities of what our economy is today,” said Jeremiah Smith, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 226-M in Burlington.
Ardagh Group manufactures sustainable metal and glass packaging.
“The company continued to make good profits throughout the pandemic,” Smith said. “Thanks to its workers who were considered essential. Wages for the workers need to align with profits for company leaders.”
Ardagh Group workers begin their second round of negotiations later this month. TMJ4 has not yet heard back from the company.
Vollrath Company workers review and vote on a new contract Friday morning.
The company released the following statement:
“The Vollrath Company remains willing and open to negotiating a fair and equitable contract that provides the basis for continued long-term employment for its valued union workers as well as a viable future for the company.”