Kent ‘turned back on loyal workers’

by Sam Hohneke

Last year Simpson College was in need of $4 million in order to build a new campus center. Then one day a very generous donor decided that they would foot the bill and allow for said construction.

Where did this donation come from?

The easy answer, as I am sure you all know, is the pocket of Gage Kent. However, when one delves deeper into this seemingly simple question, some alarming answers arise.

If you have read the article that I wrote last week (“Kent fails as environmentalist”), you will see that the business practices that Kent and his company Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) adhere to are harmful to the environment.

It is clear that Kent is interested in maximizing profit while ignoring the health of the community and environment.

Kent has done more to harm his community than poisoning the air and water in Muscatine.

According to the United States District Court of Southern Iowa, he also turned his back on 350 loyal workers in August 2009. In the midst of a contract dispute, Kent decided that he had had enough talking and decided to take the dramatic step of locking out the members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 86D (UFCW).

It seems like lockouts are fairly common these days, the National Football League had barely any summer workouts this past year and the National Basketball Association season should have started last week.

Certainly, it is within the rights of business owners to play hard-ball with unions, and perhaps UFCW 86D was asking for too much during negotiations. However, these workers were never again allowed a seat at the table.

When it became clear that this issue would not be able to be resolved internally, according to court documents, County Supervisor Wayne Shoultz wrote a letter to then Gov. Chet Culver, requesting assistance in the matter.

The governor’s response was to seek the appointment of a board of arbitration, an independent body that has representatives from both sides with the sole purpose of resolving the dispute and getting 350 people back to work during trying economic times.

Kent’s response? Sue the governor, of course. Certainly the governor was overstepping his bounds when trying to put people to work at a fair wage GPC argued.

Sadly, the U.S. District Court thought so too. By affirming with Kent, the lockout was all but permanent, unless Kent decided that enough was enough and to play nice. Spoiler alert, the union is still locked out.

To re-employ his plant, Kent turned to temp agencies. These agencies do not provide any sort of benefits, offer greatly reduced wages and of course offer no stability whatsoever.

In the middle of the worldwide economic crisis in which millions were losing jobs due to reduced markets and timid investors, 350 people in Muscatine lost their jobs due to the greed of one man.

Again I ask, what is the true cost of Kent Campus Center?

Does the potential for a greater number of students justify taking blood money from the pockets of hard working individuals?

Sam is a senior German and Political Science major.