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On the picket line

April 12, 2002 | Page 11

Los Angeles immigrant workers
ILWU Local 6

San Diego Union Tribune

By Chuck Stemke

SAN DIEGO--About 40 pressroom workers and their supporters picketed the headquarters of the Union Tribune (UT) newspaper in the posh La Jolla shopping area on March 25. "We are naming [Tribune owner and billionaire] David Copley San Diego's corporate pig of the year," shouted Jeff Alger, a fired pressroom worker and the secretary-treasurer of Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU) 432M, amid chants of "UT--Unfair!"

Union members have picketed management functions, broadcast commercials, flown planes with tow banners over Padres games, and basically harassed their bosses for years now. The fact that they have not received a raise in nine years sits at the top of a long list of grievances.

Juan Avalos, an apprentice, spent much of the rally passing out flyers to passing cars, saying, "All I want is to raise my daughter right…excuse me, take a flyer, support the working class!"

"Big corporations are the ones who act like they represent the whole voice of the people," he told Socialist Worker. "But they are also the ones who mistreat their workers, who are the basis of this whole country," referring to the UT's near-monopoly in San Diego.

Alger is confident that the public hasn't gone completely over to George W. Bush and the fat cats. "The pendulum is swinging in the direction of working people," he said.

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Los Angeles immigrant workers

By Karl Swinehart

LOS ANGELES--Chanting "Don't eat where the owners cheat!" and "Do Won Chang, you're no good, pay your workers like you should!" 100 people demonstrated outside Take Sushi and Assi Market in Koreatown on March 22. The event brought together garment workers, grocery store workers, clergy and community supporters.

The owner of Take Sushi--Do Won Chang--owns the clothing line Forever 21, and he owes 19 workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and overtime. The workers sewed Forever 21 clothes in factories in downtown LA without the guarantee of overtime or minimum wage, working 10 to 12 hours a day in dirty, unsafe factories.

"There came a time when I said to my boss that I wasn't earning enough and wanted the minimum wage--he fired me," Esperanza, a worker at the factory, told Socialist Worker. "He said that the fact that I didn't have papers meant that I didn't have rights."

The picket ended with a march through the parking lot of Assi Supermarket where a recent union election ended in a 76-to-76 tie--with two ballots missing. Leading up to the vote, managers went on a campaign of harassment against union activists, holding closed-door meetings to intimidate workers--and supervisors voted in the election.

Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates estimates that Assi grosses at least $750,000 a week--almost twice that of a typical grocery store--while workers receive the minimum wage, have little job security and no benefits.

But Assi workers are determined to change this situation and are finding allies with other workers--immigrant and native born.

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ILWU Local 6

By Ken Morgan, ILWU Local 6

SAN FRANCISCO--Members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 6 are fighting to take back their union.

After electing new officers in a landslide victory in November 2001, Local 6 members assumed that they had reasserted control over their local. They gave the new officers near unanimous votes of support at all five division membership meetings, and again at the local convention in February.

It appeared that the defeated forces around former local President Roberto Flotte and his brother, former local organizer Alfredo Flotte, would accept the decision of the membership. Apparently that is not the case.

Roberto Flotte had a long meeting with his ally, ILWU International President James Spinosa, in early March. Shortly thereafter, Spinosa sent a letter to the local's leadership, virtually accusing the local of mounting an insurrection, because it seated all the newly elected officers.

Spinosa threatened to put the local in receivership but has said he will hold off until the U.S. Department of Labor releases its findings on complaints and charges from several parties. The issues involve past elections and possible financial wrongdoing by the previous administration.

These latest developments are regarded by most of the membership of Local 6 as an attempt by the former discredited administration to overturn the mandate of the membership, through an alliance with the International leadership. Several other ILWU locals have publicly come out in support of the membership of Local 6.

The International needs to recognize the decision of the Local 6 membership and to recognize the results of the past election and convention.

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