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Strikers win retirement plan at Hollander

by BILL NEAL | May 25, 2001 | Page 15

LOS ANGELES--After 10 hard weeks on strike, 450 garment workers at Hollander Home Fashions scored what they called a total victory on May 18. Workers, represented by UNITE, voted overwhelmingly to approve the new contract after the company finally caved on attempts to hold down wages and granted 30- to 90-cent raises per hour.

More importantly, Hollander agreed to provide a 401K retirement plan. Many strikers have worked at Hollander for 20 to 30 years and still make just $7 to $8 an hour--hardly enough to save for retirement. The company said it would rather fold than provide a plan.

Not only did management give in, but it agreed to make co-payments on the plan--an indication of how badly they were beaten.

Union officials say that the victory was largely because Hollander couldn't get out quality or quantity product with scab labor. Two Hollander factories in South Central LA make pillows and comforters for JC Penney, IKEA, Wal-Mart and other retail stores.

Almost no workers crossed picket lines, so Hollander turned to the temporary agency Labor Ready for replacements. The number of trucks leaving the factory was dramatically lower during the strike, and UNITE suspects that many weren't fully loaded or carried empty boxes.

Crucial to the victory were work stoppages at two other Hollander plants. Workers at a plant in Pennsylvania walked out over similar issues on May 1. The all-African American workforce at a Hollander factory in Georgia honored the strike by refusing to go to work--resisting company attempts to divide them from their mostly immigrant counterparts in LA.

News of the victory was announced at a demonstration on May 18, where students had gathered to protest at Labor Ready. Cheers went up throughout the crowd.

During the strike, strikers spoke to antiglobalization activists at several campuses and at the U.S.-Mexico border demonstration against the Free Trade Area of the Americas on April 21.

Through these activities, student activists discovered the power of linking the general struggle against corporate greed with the struggle of workers in local communities. Students plan to come out on May 21 to support workers at their "victory march" back into the factories.

This strike shows that, despite the hardships faced by low-wage immigrant workers, if you fight back and stay united, you can win.

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