May 21, 2024

Union workers end strike at Thombert after new contract is signed

Employees were protesting from the picket line for almost three months

Thombert, Inc. employees and members of the United Auto Workers Local 997 union were supported by fellow union members from across the state on Aug. 25 outside the picket line of the manufacturing company's Newton property.

Thombert, Inc. employees and members of the United Auto Workers Local 997 reached an agreement with higher-ups on Oct. 21 after almost three months of picketing. According to the union’s Facebook page, which has been posting frequent updates since August, the new contract has been signed.

Representatives of the UAW Local 997 did not immediately respond to phone calls from Newton News by press time, so the contents of the contract remain unknown. When picketing first began, workers were frustrated Thombert, Inc. had grown “leaps and bounds,” but their paychecks did not reflect that.

Others argued the initial offer from management was an “insult” and “ridiculous.” Later that month, union groups from across the state joined Thombert employees on strike outside the company’s Newton factory. Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, advocated for fair contracts.

“We are here to show support and solidarity to let them know they’re not alone,” he said. “You’ve got people from every single different kind of union out here right now, the trades, private sector, the public sector. They’re all here and in support of this because they want to make sure these folks know we have their backs.”

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand showed his support of the union’s efforts earlier this month by meeting with individuals at the picket line, much like with state senators Nate Boulton and Sarah Garriott did in September. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders even gave the local union a shoutout on Oct. 19, saying:

“I stand in solidarity with the workers of UAW Local 997 in Newton, Iowa who have been out on strike for more than (two) months. They are fighting for fair wages and healthcare costs, and a better work-life balance. I call on their employer, Thombert, Inc., to bargain in good faith.”

Thombert is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of polyurethane wheels and tires for narrow aisle lift trucks. The manufacturer has been in business for several decades and operates in Newton and Brooklyn.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.