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On the picket line

February 1, 2002 | Page 11

New York workfare
UMass Amherst
New England Gas Co.


By a shop steward, CWA Local 1109

RANK-AND-FILERS at Verizon are furious with the company's unilateral implementation and rapid execution of its Service Excellence Plan (SEP). SEP is an obvious attempt to challenge the strength of the union, fire thousands of workers and drastically increase the pace of work.

Field techs, especially in installation and repair, are being written up for below-average productivity. Any technician whose productivity falls below a monthly average can be progressively disciplined. Of course, there's no real way to rate performance--especially when the company is so cheap that it still relies on cables and infrastructure from the turn of last century!

So many union members are halfway to being fired that local Communications Workers of America presidents in the New York City area met to plan a response to the company's war on the union.

Union officials have proposed special training courses for stewards as a first step in a mass grievance campaign. But this won't save the jobs of those in danger.

A coordinated job action or strike is the only way to stop the company dead in its tracks. Union members should call on local leaders as well as the International to demand a united fightback to save our jobs.

We've struck and won before. We can do it again.

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New York workfare

By Amy Muldoon

ABOUT 60 former welfare recipients and their supporters gathered on the steps of New York's City Hall to demand that Mayor Mike Bloomberg reverse the firing of 3,500 Parks Opportunity Program (POP) workers.

The workers were fired by outgoing Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose welfare chief Jason Turner negotiated a $578 million contract with TempForce to rehire the same workers for $1.50 less an hour with no benefits or job security.

TempForce will make a $75 million profit on the deal. "These people are profiteering off other people's misery," said Mark Rosenthal, president of Motor Vehicle Operators, Local 983, AFSCME DC 37. "We need a moratorium on kicking people off welfare. This isn't just a union issue, it's a social justice issue."

The POP program is one of the city's welfare-to-work programs. It placed workers in union jobs earning $9.38 an hour in the Parks Department for 11 months.

Protesters also demanded that Bloomberg create living-wage jobs for 10,000 people who have hit the five-year limit on welfare benefits--and provide jobs for 40,000 more people who will reach this limit. "They're taking money out of the pockets of these workers and putting it into the profiteer's pockets--literally taking food out of the mouths of their children," said Charles Ensley, president of Social Service Employees Union Local 371, DC 37.

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UMass Amherst

By Paul Waite, AFSCME Local 1776

ADMINISTRATORS AT the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced 95 layoffs on January 18 as part of a plan to offset a $15 million budget shortfall.

The job cuts will hit across the university. For example, University Child Care--which has been in operation for 30 years--will close on May 25, except for flexible day care for 20 children.

Not only will 22 university employees lose their jobs, but 50 part-time student positions will be lost, and many families will have to find alternative child care arrangements in an area that is short of adequate facilities.

To add insult to injury, on the same day that the university announced the layoffs, it also revealed plans to build a new hotel-conference center and a new $63 million heating plant. Administrators have already hiked fees for undergraduate students by $495 for the spring semester.

It's time for workers and students to stand together against layoffs and fee increases.

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New England Gas Co.

By John Osmand

"JUDAS." THAT'S what Roberta, a locked-out worker at New England Gas Co. in Providence, R.I., calls Frank Devlin, a company vice president who used to be an official for United Steelworkers of America Local 12431.

About 250 Local 12431 workers were locked out at New England Gas starting on Martin Luther King Day. Union members refused to ratify a contract proposal that put profits before safety.

The company's offer would have allowed nonunion temporary workers to handle live natural gas pipelines. Last summer, one of around 25 untrained temp workers turned off the gas at the wrong house--and then turned it back on without lighting the pilot lights, allowing the house to fill to dangerous levels of explosive gas.

The company also wants the right to lay off any new hires since 1996 and anyone who isn't qualified for field work. The company didn't even offer a raise--only a cash bonus that management graciously doubled, from 1 to 2 percent.

Picketers say that they would like to see a labor rally at the State House, where they could come together with Providence teachers and workers at the Providence Journal newspaper, who are also in contract disputes.

Labor needs to show its strength to beat back the attack on workers' rights.

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