Madison, WI: Nearly 500 workers at CUNA Mutual Group on strike
Madison, WI – The OPEIU Local 39 union workers, 500 strong, started their strike against CUNA Mutual Group, now formally rebranded as TruStage, this past Friday, May 19. The action is making history not only as their first strike in their 80-year long relationship with TruStage, but also as being the largest strike in the city of Madison since the Act 10 protests on the capitol a dozen years ago. After over 400 days of stalled bargaining processes, refusal to provide information, retaliation against union leaders, and TruStage’s bargaining in bad faith, workers were left with no other option but to strike.
“We have done absolutely everything we can to open every line of communication, made every movement we could possibly make. They’re not coming to the table,” said Joel Bryhan, a software developer that has been working with TruStage for nine years. “The majority of unfair labor practice charges that we filed are related to not bargaining in good faith.”
It wasn’t until two weeks ago that OPEIU 39 was able to engage a federal mediator to get the company back to the bargaining table. The last time TruStage had bargained with them was in January. Four months went by with the company refusing to bargain. TruStage has been doing everything that it can to prevent OPEIU 39 from being able to reach a decent contract.
The company is also currently using hundreds of contractors to perform bargaining unit work, violating the collective bargaining agreement that they have with OPEIU local 39. In an attempt to keep the information about what the contractors are doing a secret, the company is purposefully withholding that information from the union workers in order to try and bust the union.
“Over the last 20 years we have had 1200 of our jobs outsourced and people have received layoff notices as a result,” said Joe Evica, the elected chief steward, who was illegally terminated in retaliation by TruStage. “They have backfilled many of the positions with temporary contractors who get no benefits and far less compensation for performing the same work.”
Offering “wage increases” that are below inflation, TruStage is still threatening to cut the pension plan for new hires, refusing to stop outsourcing the work, and even going as far as to send out emails falsely accusing OPEIU 39 of being the ones that pulled out of bargaining. Additionally, TruStage has been reaching out to former employees trying, unsuccessfully, to get them to cross the picket line, to which they declined, refusing to scab.
Even with the maneuverings of TruStage, the determination of the union workers was tangible along the picket line. Picketers stood tall and strong as their chants blended with the chorus of honks from supporters that drove by. Support from the community and other organizations has been pouring in at both the picket line and online, scoring the number one spot on the Madison sub-Reddit as of Friday morning. The Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed 2022 RES-371, a resolution supporting the OPEIU 39 strike, along with a majority vote in their favor from the City Council and an overwhelming amount of support from other local organizations.
“NAACP, Workers Justice Wisconsin, AFSCME, SEIU, Smart locals; I would be here all day if I was naming all the different unions that showed up on our picket line. They recognize that what’s happening for CUNA Mutual workers has far-reaching effects on the rest of the city of Madison because if we are successful in our strike, it provides confidence and inspires people to do the same,” said one a striking worker.
To show your support for the strike you can come join the picket line, drive by and honk, or spread the word on social media. Donations in the form of snacks, water, coffee, or even just ordering a pizza to them are all welcome. There is also a GoFundMe page where you can donate to help with the expenses of running a strike if you are unable to attend in person.
Support in any form is appreciated even if it is just liking a Twitter post to help boost the algorithm. It is important that we show the OPEIU 39 workers that we stand with them in their fight against corporate greed and oppression.
As one striker stated, “An injury to one is an injury to all, so when corporations like CUNA Mutual Group come after workers, it’s not just about the employees at CUNA Mutual. It’s about them trying to set a precedent for other employers in Madison and beyond to be able to do whatever they want with their workforce.”