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On the picket line

January 18, 2002 | Page 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW
Pacifica
LA immigrant workers
Jack's 99 Cent Store

Queens bus drivers wildcat

By Dominic Renda

ABOUT 1,400 Queens bus drivers and mechanics staged a six-hour wildcat strike January 7 against three private bus lines. Workers have been without a contract for 13 months. "The union leadership has been complacent," Dulang, a driver, told Socialist Worker.

The union is looking for parity with public transportation workers, another driver told Socialist Worker. Currently, the private-line drivers make about $3 less an hour than their public-sector counterparts. Workers also want job protection in the event that the city's operating agreements with the three private bus lines are given to other companies.

Union leaders had already announced that they didn't want a strike until after Christmas. But when December 25 passed, union officials further delayed a strike because they didn't want to appear as if they were striking a blow at the newly elected Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

This is a failed strategy. The union has nothing to gain by playing nice with Bloomberg--who ran on the platform that he is a businessman. "Big corporations are trying to run the lives of the people," said Dulang.

When workers handed out leaflets to the public, they got a lot of support, said Dulang. There's no reason to delay a strike any further.

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Pacifica

By Lee Wengraf

NEW YORK--Activists fighting to save the Pacifica Radio Network from last year's corporate-backed takeover scored a major victory at the interim Pacifica national board meeting the weekend of January 11-13.

The meeting was the first for the newly formed, progressive-controlled board. More than 700 people fighting corporate control at Pacifica packed the union hall and jammed the sidewalk outside for the meeting.

Activists won eight key resolutions, the culmination of a hard-fought battle to return free speech, union rights and community control to the five-station national network. Resolutions passed included rehiring all 300 progressive employees who've been banned and fired. The gag rule on discussing Pacifica policy on-air was also lifted.

Demonstrations, community forums, direct action and a national boycott of Pacifica's fund drive--which left the network nearly $3 million in debt--were all key to winning.

The Pacifica campaign also won with the board's appointment of former Democracy Now! producer Dan Coughlin as interim Executive News Director. Coughlin's return guarantees that station managers will no longer be able to keep Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!--Pacifica's most popular show, with 750,000 listeners--off the air. In December, a judge had ordered that the show be broadcast, but managers at WBAI in New York and KPFA in Berkeley, Calif., continued to muzzle it.

"This is a people's victory," Wake Up Call co-host Bernard White told Socialist Worker. "It's a victory due to the perseverance and dedication of listeners and a community struggle over a national institution."

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LA immigrant workers

By Karl Swinehart

LOS ANGELES--Workers from Forever 21 and Assi Markets held a joint protest with community supporters in Koreatown January 4.

The garment workers at Forever 21 are fighting for thousands of dollars in overtime and back pay from their former employer, while workers at Assi Markets are fighting for a union at the nationwide Korean supermarket chain. The action brought together workers from the two most important organizing efforts among immigrant workers in LA.

The protest started at Take Sushi, a restaurant owned by sweatshop boss Do Won Chang. Chang owns Forever 21 and owes 19 workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and overtime.

Workers at Forever 21 regularly worked 10 to 12 hours a day, earning below minimum wage in dirty, unsafe factories. "There came a moment when I said to my boss that I wasn't earning enough and wanted the minimum wage--he fired me," Esperanza told Socialist Worker. "He said that the fact that I didn't have papers meant that I didn't have rights."

Forever 21 will make $400 million in sales this year and has hired one of the largest corporate law firms to fight the workers.

After picketing Take Sushi, protesters set down their signs and crossed the street to Assi Market, where workers are fighting to join the Immigrant Workers Union (IWU). In November, workers at Assi filed for a union election for the IWU. In response, owner Daniel Lee hired union busters Littler and Mendelson and filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the IWU to delay the election and harass the workers. The ULP was dismissed January 3.

"Managers keep very close supervision and workers can be fired for any reason," Liz Sunwoo, an organizer for the Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates, told Socialist Worker. "When workers requested 10-minute breaks, overtime or days off, they've been fired."

These workers are an inspiration for the entire labor movement and need everyone's support.

For information on how to get involved, call Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates at 213-738-9050 or Sweatshop Watch at 213-748-5945.

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Jack's 99 Cent Store

By Monique Jeanne Dols

NEW YORK--UNITE Local 169 suffered a defeat this week when they lost their union election at Jack's 99 Cent Store. Jack's waged an all-out antiunion campaign, using dirty tactics such as firing militant workers and promoting anti-union workers.

Workers at Jack's are from diverse backgrounds ranging from West Africa to the Caribbean to the Middle East. Jack's played up ethnic and racial differences as part of its divide-and-conquer strategy. The company used the anti-immigrant political climate as a scare tactic to intimidate workers.

Three workers were fired for campaigning for the union, explained Jean from West Africa. "People are scared to death," Jean told Socialist Worker. "Many of us are here without papers and are supporting our families. Although we only make minimum wage and have little to lose, Jack knows he has us cornered."

The defeat at Jack's is a reminder of why we have to fight for immigrants' and workers' rights.

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