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On the picket line

November 9, 2001 | Page 11

Carousel Linen
International Window Corp.
Campus Equity Week
Taco Bell

NYC postal workers

By Amy Muldoon

NEW YORK--The New York Area Metro Postal Union (NYAMPU) is suing in federal court to force the closing of Morgan Station Center.

Four machines at the facility--New York's largest mail sorting center--tested positive for anthrax. The union is demanding that the facility be shut down and decontaminated before workers return.

"It's absurd. It's criminal. There are live spores in these machines," said Dennis O'Neil. "Management will not close the Morgan station until someone dies."

O'Neil is a union rep who has refused to return to his mail-sorting job at Morgan Station. The Postal Service reported an absentee rate of 30 percent this past week.

Workers have been offered a 10-day treatment of Cipro, but the Postal Service has refused to test all of the 5,500 workers at the site, instead passing out latex gloves and paper masks. "We're simply asking the post office to close the building and make sure it's safe," said NYAMPU president Willie Smith.

Compare this to the top-notch treatment given to those on Capitol Hill. "I realize that Morgan employees are not Supreme Court justices or senators or congressmen, but they are God's children," Smith told the New York Times. "They have the same right to life as the aristocrats. No one piece of mail is worth a human life."

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Carousel Linen

By Orlando Sepulveda

HIGHWOOD, Ill.-- Laundry workers at Carousel Linen are entering the fifth week of a strike for union recognition. Nearly 50 workers--almost all of whom are Mexican immigrants--want to join UNITE.

"[This struggle] will bring us not only better working conditions and wages, but also dignity and respect," striker Ana Castro told Socialist Worker.

Most workers at Carousel earn $5.15 per hour and don't have medical insurance or sick days--despite the fact that some have worked for Carousel for 10 years.

Carousel doesn't give workers adequate training on how to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals they must use--and workers aren't provided with gloves or safety glasses.

Managers' lack of respect for workers has also caused accidents. "A supervisor got mad at a coworker and pushed a large laundry cart down some stairs. It hit me in my hip," Araceli Sotomayor told Socialist Worker. "He never came to apologize or ask how I was. They called the ambulance more than an hour later--and only because my coworkers gathered and pressed for it. At the beginning, the company took care of the bills, but now they told me that they won't do it anymore. But I still have to keep going to the hospital."

Last Friday--like every Friday in October--the laundry workers had a rally, complete with street theater where a worker in a rat costume played Carousel boss Scott Close.

"We are fighting for something just…We contribute a lot to this country, and not only by paying taxes," Marta Rodriguez told the rally. "We have come to improve our families' lives, not to be humiliated or exploited."

"We are still strong, and we'll keep the strike alive until our rights are respected," Lilian Perez added. "Many have come to support us, and we dearly appreciate the support they've given us."

Northwestern University students from United Students Against Sweatshops, for example, told the rally how they are pushing their administration to cancel their contracts with Carousel until the union is recognized.

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International Window Corp.

By Karl Swinehart

LOS ANGELES--Some 90 workers continued their 10-week strike for fair wages at International Window Corp. Management wants to slash wages from $10 an hour to $7.50. The company planned to do this by "rehiring" the workforce at the lower rate.

"This is ridiculous," striker Mike Barragan told Socialist Worker. "I've been here 25 years and I can't make $10 an hour?"

The scab agency Labor Ready is providing International Windows with replacement workers. And they're employing Black workers against the overwhelmingly Latino strikers, trying to feed racial animosity.

But workers won't have it. Strikers chant "Martin Luther King wouldn't cross a picket line!" to shame the scabs.

The Teamsters have been running this strike on their own without the help of their local officers, who are supporters of James Hoffa. "They're corrupt," said one striker. "They haven't done a thing for us." In fact, local leaders have intervened on the side of the company.

When workers followed containers with scab goods down to the harbor, longshore workers there respected the picket line. Workers stopped the containers for four days--until their own local leaders contacted the Port Authority and the ILWU and ordered the pickets to stop.

Workers are angry. "All those years we've been paying union dues, we've been paying for something like this," Barragan said.

Many workers are hopeful that a victory for reform candidate Tom Leedham in the national election might change the direction of their union.

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Campus Equity Week

By Kat McClellan, member, Graduate Employees Organization, Univ. of Illinois-Chicago

CHICAGO--Faculty and other campus activists banded together across the U.S. and Canada to designate October 28 to November 3 as Campus Equity Week (CEW). The purpose of CEW was to raise awareness about the growing use of part-time, temporary and other forms of contingent labor in colleges and universities.

The CEW slogans were "Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions" and "Equal work deserves equal pay."

In Chicago last Monday, faculty and allies handed out peanuts downtown, letting the public know that part-time faculty "work for peanuts." On Friday at the State of Illinois building, part-time faculty were represented by a costumed roadrunner, a "mascot" for part-timers who must run from workplace to workplace to piece together a living wage.

More than 50 percent of the people teaching college classes today are part-time or temporary workers without job security. Most of these contingent faculty make less than 50 percent of what tenured teachers make for the same work. The majority of these faculty have no health benefits or sick leave. Many don't have offices.

Increased dependence on contingent workers results from the corporate management style now commonly employed by higher education administrations.

This "corporatization" of our colleges and universities has a negative impact on the educational experience of students as well as on the working conditions for faculty and other campus employees.

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Taco Bell

CHICAGO--Some 20 activists from the Chicago Taco Bell Boycott Committee participated last weekend in an action to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). For an hour and a half, activists essentially shut down the Taco Bell at Western and Division.

CIW has called for a boycott of Taco Bell to help farmworkers who pick tomatoes used in Taco Bell products by raising awareness of their horrific conditions and low wages, which have been frozen for 20 years.

"We're planning more actions like this in the future," said activists, who want to reach out to students in the anti-sweatshop movement. This event is also part of preparing for this spring's Taco Bell Truth Tour, which will finish in California at Taco Bell's corporate headquarters.

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