MUSCATINE, Iowa — A group of striking workers from Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd. and its parent company picketed in front of the Muscatine Hy-Vee Mainstreet store in Muscatine Monday.
The three workers were protesting Hy-Vee's use of Hy-Brand as a contractor for a project at the store. They want Hy-Vee to pledge to stop using Hy-Brand until Hy-Brand deals with allegations of unaddressed safety hazards on the job.
Dakota Upshaw, of Muscatine, said he worked at Hy-Brand for about two years before he was terminated after turning in a letter stating his intention to strike because of dangerous working conditions. He has been on strike since July 2015. Upshaw said he is suing Hy-Brand for wrongful termination.
Fellow picketers Nicole Pinnick and Ron Senteras were terminated by their employer, Brandt Construction, Hy-Brand's parent company, when they informed Brandt of their intention to strike over safety issues. Upshaw said there are eight employees participating in the strike. None of them are union members.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, non-union employees do have the right to strike.
Brandt's company headquarters is located in Milan, Illinois.
Upshaw said striking workers spoke with Hy-Vee store officials about their plan to use Hy-Brand.
"They said they would have it taken care of and they used them anyway. So that's why we are out here kind of informing people of the issues," Upshaw said.
"Worker safety was not the first priority of the company and taking care of their workers just didn't seem to be very important."
Upshaw said there were injury accidents on the job but the company was never cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the OSHA web site.
A person who answered the phone at Hy-Brand said the company would have no comment about Monday's activities.
A spokesperson for Hy-Vee also had no comment Monday.
Pinnick, of Atkinson, Illinois, was hired as a labor apprentice at Brandt in 2014. She also had safety concerns.
Senteras, of Colona, Illinois, worked at Brandt for eight years.
"I was actually injured on the job and I had unpaid hospital bills. I noticed a lot of things going on," Senteras said. "We really wish they would come to their senses and get with us workers."