Some A.Y. McDonald workers go on strike in Dubuque

Factory and maintenance workers at Dubuque-based A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co. initiated a strike this week after union representation and company officials failed to come to a collective bargaining agreement by a Wednesday deadline.

On Thursday, members of Local Lodge 1238 of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers gathered outside the company’s headquarters on Chavenelle Road holding black-and-white signs reading “On strike Machinists Union.”

The union’s previous five-year contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’re just here to peacefully demonstrate for some of the things we need to see changed and about some of the deficiencies with the current offer,” said union shop chairman Jeff Fellenzer.

A.Y. McDonald is a manufacturing business that makes water pumps, plumbing and natural gas products. It’s headquartered in Dubuque, with additional manufacturing locations in Albia, Iowa, and Elizabethton, Tenn.

The IAM strike includes 134 factory and maintenance workers from the Dubuque location.

A.Y. McDonald officials declined to comment on what portion of the workforce the strikers represent but said in a statement that it was a “small percentage.” They also would not say how many people were employed at the Dubuque facility.

A business listing on the Greater Dubuque Development Corp. website says the company has 425 full-time employees, although the Telegraph Herald could not independently verify that number.

A.Y. McDonald employees represented by the United Steel Workers union, which includes foundry and shipping workers, are unaffected by the strike, having reached a collective bargaining agreement in March. Those employees will continue to work throughout the IAM strike.

CEO Rob McDonald wrote in the statement that 19 negotiation sessions were held leading up to the strike.

The company’s final offer before the Wednesday deadline, he wrote, included pay increases for the “vast majority” of IAM workers of 25% to 45% over a five-year time frame and first-year increases from 7% to 15%, depending on the position.

“I stand by the terms of our current offer as being extremely fair and reasonable and remain dumbfounded that the offer was not ratified,” McDonald said in the statement. “We were able to come to terms with the USW union in a relatively short order compared to negotiations with the IAM union.”

IAM business representative Joe Allen said the union was seeking general wage increases, but also sought additional changes to A.Y. McDonald’s existing two-tier wage system.

The system was put into place in 2008 and created two different pay structures for existing and future employees that union members say puts newer employees at a disadvantage and sows discontent between workers earning substantially different amounts for working similar jobs.

“If we’re doing the same job, we should be paid equally,” Allen said. “If you’ve got longevity then yes, there should be some compensation for being committed to the job, but at the base (pay) when you come in, you should start out making so much and reach the higher end of the wage scale. And that base salary should be the same.”

Fellenzer added that strikers also want to ensure the protection of union jobs at the new brass foundry A.Y. McDonald plans to build on a 100-acre parcel near Dickeyville, Wis.

The company plans to have the new foundry fully operational in 2026, and the Dubuque foundry will then be decommissioned and converted for “other manufacturing uses,” according to a previous statement from A.Y. McDonald.

“We are trying to protect some work radius language to protect our jobs as they start moving within a certain range,” Fellenzer said from the picket line Thursday. As he spoke, passing cars and trucks honked at the strikers in support.

A.Y. McDonald Director of Marketing Justin Mills said Thursday that the company had no further comment beyond its written statement. According to that announcement, negotiations are set to resume Tuesday, June 6.