MANITOWOC - Striking union workers at Manitowoc Crane continue to walk the picket line. This weekend, they had a little help.
Hundreds turned out for a rally for the 200 employees on strike, even as the company hires non-union replacements.
A life-long union machinist at Manitowoc Crane, J.C. Schultz said he could have retired before the strike happened. Instead, he protested.
"I'm a journeyman machinist. I started my apprenticeship when I was 17-years-old with the union, and I celebrated my 61st birthday this week on the picket line," said Schultz.
Schultz and more than 200 of his fellow workers are on strike, which prompted the company to lay off more than 150 boilermakers. Some of those employees returned to work earlier this week, since the company began hiring outside workers to replace the striking machinists. But, a deal has yet to be reached with the machinist union.
"The contract basically wants to break the union by not requiring workers to be union members when they get hired in," said union representative Benito Elizondo.
The workers at Manitowoc Crane have been picketing for nearly a month. This Saturday they were joined by people from the community, and from unions across the state.
Many in the crowd of several hundred people said they are no stranger to protesting union issues in the state this year.
"I was impressed by people who came down to Madison to support us in February and March, as a public worker and a union member, so it's obvious that we should return the favor," says Amanda Love, an AFSCME union member from Madison.
Manitowoc Crane did not respond to our requests for comment on the rally, but has in the past encouraged workers to push for a vote on the company's offer.
Union leaders and workers like Schultz said they'd have a deal in minutes if the company would change its demands.
"It's not the way I'd like to go out. I'd like to do it with a little more pride and dignity," said Schultz.
Until a deal is reached, however, Schultz and his coworkers said they're refusing to remain silent.
Manitowoc Crane officials told us earlier this week that they prefer to leave the decision to join a union up to the employees themselves. The strike has been going on since November 15.
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