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On the picket line

October 19, 2001 | Page 11

Teamsters Local 743
Orange County sanitation workers

Minnesota state workers

By Nicole Colson

MINNEAPOLIS--Some 29,000 state employees returned to work on October 15 after making gains in the largest strike in Minnesota's history.

Workers, represented by the AFSCME Council 6 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), struck for two weeks for better wages and to stop increases in health care costs.

Gov. Jesse Ventura tried to shame the unions into settling for an unfair deal by implying that they were unpatriotic for striking in the wake of the September 11 attacks. But the workers weren't buying it. "This doesn't have anything to do with that terrorism attack," said striker Lisa Maidl. "He's using that to make us look bad."

Ventura called in 1,000 National Guard members to do workers' jobs and threatened to hire thousands of replacement workers to scab. In response, the unions staged a series of solidarity rallies featuring New York City public employees.

Izzy Miranda, an emergency medical technician from AFSCME Local 2507 in New York, told hundreds of strikers in St. Paul that he was in Minnesota because he believed in the power of a union. "After all the working men and women in this country have been through helping New York City dig out from the rubble, it's important that we all stand behind you," he told the crowd.

The state originally offered AFSCME workers 3 percent wage increases each year over two years, and MAPE workers a single 4 percent increase over two years. Under the new contract, AFSCME workers will receive a 3.5 percent wage each year. MAPE workers will get 3 percent increases for each of two years. AFSCME members' health insurance co-payments will rise, but not as much as the state wanted.

AFSCME Council 6 Executive Director Pete Benner stated that the new contract acheived "many of the goals that lead to this strike…I consider this a win--a clear win--for our members."

But it looks like state workers have more fights ahead. Ventura is already hinting that he may have to start laying off workers to pay for the increases.

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Teamsters Local 743

By Elizabeth Schulte

CHICAGO--Reformers at the second-largest Teamsters local in the city are giving James Hoffa supporters a run for their money in local elections--if there's any money left, that is.

For decades, Local 743 has been the poster child for old-guard corruption. In 1994, then-national president Ron Carey put the local under trusteeship after it was uncovered that local president Robert Simpson still had former president Donald Peters on the payroll.

Peters was local president for 40 years before the federal government forced him to resign. He had close ties to leading mob figures like Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and the late Allen Dorfman.

Today, reformers running in local elections on New Leadership Slate are asking what happened to the health and welfare fund. Some $16 million vanished under the presidency of Chester Glanton, who died last month. In June, hundreds of rank-and-filers rallied to call for the executive board's resignation.

Glanton was succeeded by Robert Walston, who's running for local president on the Hoffa Unity Slate and was chair of the health and welfare fund when the money disappeared.

The old-guard cronies are responsible for several rotten contracts, including a 1997 contract at University of Chicago Hospitals. Due to several voting irregularities, members voted a second time on the contract--overwhelmingly rejecting it. But Glanton and Co. instead recognized the first vote, and signed the sell-out contract.

Local 743, with some 15,000 members, represents clerical and support workers, many of and at Chicago's main hospitals. "Many members have lost interest in the union and we're trying to get them involved again," reform activist William Jenkins, who has worked at Rush-Presbyterian Hospital for 21 years, told Socialist Worker.

Local 743 has a diverse membership, so the NLS has translated their campaign materials into Polish and Spanish. The ballots are out and activists are phone-banking to get out the vote--most of them pulling double-duty as they campaign for national Teamster presidential candidate Tom Leedham. Local 743 member Christine Royster is running in national elections on Leedham's Rank and File Power Slate.

Reformers in Local 743 and across the country will work hard in the coming weeks to scrub the dirt out of the union. Local ballots are due by November 2.

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Orange County sanitation workers

By Federico Moreno

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.--Disappointed trash haulers ended their five-day countywide strike on October 6, accepting a contract they'd rejected a week earlier.

On October 1, about 800 workers--represented by Teamsters Local 396--walked out at four waste management companies against their union leaders' advise.

Workers' main concerns were wages and working conditions. "We don't get sick days," José Garduño told Socialist Worker. "And if we take paid holidays, we have to make them up."

The companies offered a five-year raise scale that topped at $14.15 an hour. Workers wanted a $1 raise per year, which would top at $16.05. "This is a dangerous and difficult job," said one striker. "We have to demand what we deserve."

But the companies would not budge on their offer, which is $1.20 below the county average, and threatened to permanently replace strikers.

In the end, fear of losing their jobs in a faltering economy and the lack of medical insurance forced workers to accept the contract. "We felt like our backs were up against a wall," said driver Miguel Angelo.

José Beltran's wife suffers from cancer. "I need the insurance," said the father of two. "I have to take care of my wife."

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