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'Get this settled': Eaton striker says union members want to work, but won't back down

Nearly one month into the strike, Eaton has begun looking for permanent replacements. Union members say they're not backing down.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — 25 days into the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) strike against Eaton Corporation's Davenport facility, a new round of talks are scheduled but a third contract isn't any closer to a vote.  

Now, after Eaton announced it had begun hiring permanent replacements and union workers would not be guaranteed their jobs upon conclusion of the strike, one IAM member has written a statement saying strikers want to be at work but aren't willing to back down. 

The worker spoke to News 8 on the condition that his name not be revealed. A copy of his statement in full is available at the bottom of this article. 

A representative with the union confirmed virtual talks would take place on March 15 but Eaton would not be available for in-person negotiations until March 22 at the earliest. 

"All of us at the Eaton Davenport facility take our work very seriously," said the union member. "We are a unique workforce with a specialized skill set." 

Strikers have previously said many of their positions take months, even over a year to properly train for. A large chunk of union members on strike in Davenport have college degrees and perform highly technical responsibilities at Eaton. Workers have said they're confident the company won't be able to hire enough qualified workers in their place.  

The Davenport facility specializes in contract work for the U.S. government and other aerospace companies. The workers on strike make a variety of products including aerial refueling equipment, fuel tank inverting systems and other environmental products for the military, according to a company spokesperson. 

Last year, Eaton Corporation bought Cobham, which owned the manufacturing plant in Davenport, for $2.8 billion.

"When Eaton purchased us last February and completed the purchase in June, they specifically purchased Cobham for the government contracts side of our business. So while we worked through all the Covid restrictions as essential workers, they made record sales and profits from 2020 to 2021," said the union member. 

According to Eaton's fourth quarter earnings report, the company made $19.6 billion in sales in 2021. That's a 10% increase from 2020's revenue.

After the company announced it would begin searching for replacements, which needed to be permanent in order to account for the highly specialized work done at Eaton's Davenport plant according to the company, Eaton has repeatedly stated 50 union members have crossed the picket line. A company spokesperson told News 8 the facility keeps electronic records of who enters the site on any given day. 

Several union members have denied those claims, saying the real number is only nine IAM workers. Those on the picket line allege local union numbers have actually grown since the start of the strike. Union officials have declined to comment. 

"We all want to be in this building, working and helping to protect our military, country and everyone's freedom. Even the freedom to be able to strike," said the worker. 

After a 98% majority vote to go on strike, followed by a 97% majority rejection of the second offered contract, union members are seemingly united in their calls for a third proposal that they say should include better offers on wages, health care and retirement. 

"Get this settled and give us at least a cost of living increase with inflation being well over 7% and gas prices at the highest level they have ever been," said the worker. "Instead they spend all this extra money trying to break our union with ads in the paper and radio when they could just pay us. Just shows corporate greed and stockholders shares are more important than the people that get them there." 

The anonymous union member also noted that most strikers don't carry hard feelings toward the building's salaried workers. 

Following the second contract vote, the union released an official statement saying several salaried employees had walked off the job in solidarity and stopped to cheer on the picket lines before leaving. 

Full worker statement

"Well, the first thing I would like to say is I am a proud Navy veteran and have worked here for several years. All of us at the Eaton Davenport facility take our work very seriously. We are a unique workforce with a specialized skill set.

When Eaton purchased us last Feb. and completed the Purchase in June, they specifically purchased Cobham for the Government contract side of our business. So, while we worked through all the Covid restrictions as essential workers they made record Sales And profits from 2020 to 2021. If you want to know all the stats, please feel free to go to their public Eaton 3rd Quarter earnings report on google.

This being said, we all want to be in the building, working and helping to protect our military, country and everyone's right for freedom. Even the freedom to be able to strike! I cannot speak for everyone, but most of us here at Davenport have no malice with the salary personnel within this building. They are just doing what they are instructed to do.

Eaton having the lack of wanting to keep negotiations open with our union, get this settled, and give us at least a cost-of-living increase with inflation being over 7% and gas prices at the highest level they have ever been. 

Instead, they spend all this extra money to try break our union with ads in the paper and radio, when they could just pay us, just shows how corporate greed and stockholder shares are more important than the people that help get them there. That includes the salary personnel as well, but I cannot speak for them."

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