Roquette lock out means bad news for Keokuk

UPDATE: November 10 at 4:45 p.m.

Support for the union employees who have been locked out of their jobs in Keokuk has spread overseas.

The French Workers' Union that represents Roquette workers in France sent letters supporting the Keokuk employees.

Those employees have been locked out of their jobs since turning down the company's final contract offer on September 29th.

To show support, the Lee County Labor Council has organized a "Solidarity Rally for Labor Unions" this Saturday.


Union employees of Keokuk's Roquette America plant have been locked out of their jobs for more than a month.

Some of those employees have been forced to head to food pantries to make ends meet.

KHQA's Jarod Wells headed to Keokuk to see what the long and short term effects of this lock out could be.

Union employees have been locked out of their jobs at Roquette for 37 full days.

Marion said, "It could have big time effects. Businesses here in town suffer. People don't have the disposable income to go buy anything from clothing to books to other things that people are trying to sell."

Business owner Julie Sonneborn said, "It's got to effect every business, not just my business, but every business from gas to grocery stores to everybody. They can't afford to eat out because eating out is just a luxury to everybody."

And with this being the first thing people see as they drive into Keokuk, the short term effects of this lockout won't get any better.

Mayor Tom Marion said, "Well anytime there's a lock out, strike or whatever, yeah the town takes a bad name from the standpoint that, we're always looking to get industry to move here, they come here, they look at the quality of life. If they see something like this they go 'well, should we really be involved'."

Michelle Henze along with Chris and Lisa Morris have set up the Helping Hands for the Communities food pantry to help the 48G Union. Julie Sonneborn is allowing them to use a room in the Keokuk Mall to store food.

Sonneborn said, "We have boxes, they go through take what they want and it's distributed that way. There's frozen food, there's can goods, there's bread, baby food, laundry soap, toilet paper, just a little bit of everything."

There have been two distribution so far to the union employees. The first distribution served nearly 100 families, more than 300 people. The second served more than 100 families, that's more than 340 people.

For the city's sake, Mayor Tom Marion hopes this lockout won't be like ones of the past.

Marion said, "In 1985 there was an 11 month lockout, we came back from that and that was almost devastating. I think the community will bounce back, I think there always going to be some bad feelings, but I think everybody gets along. We're a small community, everybody knows everybody, so I just think things will turn around for the better."

We also spoke to the Keokuk Salvation Army about its food pantry.

Roquette union employees have started going there for help as well.

Both the company and the union have agreed to stop communicating with the media for the time being.

We did find out that the two sides have had a couple of meetings recently, and hope to meet again soon.

The following is from the Helping Hands for the Communities:

"We are taking financial donations through the Hamilton Ministerial Alliance 1421 Broadway St. Hamilton IL 62341. Church Contact: 217.847.2516. Checks need to be noted "Union Food Support". Food items can be collected at the Delightfully Tasteful Bistro 300 Main St. Keokuk IA 52632 (Keokuk Mall). Our next goal is to collect funds to purchase Turkey's for each family complete with a basket of trimmings. We are asking area individuals, businesses and churches that are interested in helping to donate for this next Food Distribution and bless these families for the Thanksgiving Season. We need contributions by Nov 15th for this turkey distribution."