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Ingredion violated labor laws in union negotiations, U.S. court rules

Appeals court upholds findings from when company bought Penford

Rail lines run through the Ingredion plant as the corn storage silos are seen in the background in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Jul. 2, 2018. (Gazette photo)
Rail lines run through the Ingredion plant as the corn storage silos are seen in the background in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Jul. 2, 2018. (Gazette photo)

A U.S. appeals court upheld findings that cornstarch maker Ingredion violated federal labor laws during collective bargaining talks with representatives of its Cedar Rapids plant.

Ingredion had denied National Labor Relations Board allegations that it badmouthed the local union to employees, unlawfully dealt directly with employees rather than the union and imposed its own employment agreement without first reaching an impasse in negotiations.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied Ingredion’s petition on July 19, and granted enforcement of the labor board’s order that it bargain in good faith with the union, rescind the changes under the imposed agreement, and compensate current and former employees for any lost wages or benefits.

In March 2015, when Ingredion acquired the Penford Corp. facility in Cedar Rapids, approximately 165 employees were represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 100G union, according to court documents.

Ingredion and the union found themselves at loggerheads over a new collective bargaining agreement, the documents show.

During negotiations, Ingredion determined it and the union were at an impasse and presented a “last, best and final offer,” the terms of which it implemented shortly thereafter — changing provisions on wages, vacation and health insurance.

The labor board also said Ingredion’s chief negotiator bypassed the union in speaking with employees about the existing collective bargaining agreement, including to criticize work schedules and health insurance benefits, while a company manager indicated the union was unwilling to negotiate on certain subjects.

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The Local 100G union filed charges in September 2015 with the National Labor Relations Board, which issued its own complaint against Ingredion in January 2016.

In an email, Ingredion spokeswoman Becca Hary said the company is aware of the court’s decision and, though it does not comment on pending litigation, is “in the process of studying the decision and evaluating the options.”

“We value the relationships we maintain with many different unions and look forward to continuing those relationships now and into the future,” she said.

• Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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