On the picket line
May 3, 2002 | Page 11
MARIETTA, Ga.--As Socialist Worker went to press, 2,700 workers at Lockheed-Martin voted to end their nearly two-month strike and accept a new contract. Union leaders unanimously endorsed a deal that was reached after two days of talks with federal mediators in Washington, D.C. About 63 percent of International Association of Machinists Local 709 approved the deal, and workers returned to the plant Monday--but bitterness remains.
"I think that our members reluctantly accepted it, even though they weren't really pleased with it," said Bob Wood, a Local 709 spokesperson. "But we got the things we needed to have fixed."
But many rank-and-filers disagreed. They were disappointed that they didn't win the job guarantees, health care and other benefits they struck over.
For most, it seemed that now was the time to make up lost ground as Lockheed gears up for its record $200 billion Joint Strike Fighter contract. But the new contract only requires Lockheed to consult the union on outsourcing.
"I don't want these last seven weeks of walking picket lines to be in vain," said Barbara Harris, a technician at Lockheed for 18 years, who told fellow workers to vote against the deal. "Right now, we have nothing to show for it."Back to the top
By Ken Morgan
SAN FRANCISCO--The International Executive Board (IEB) of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) held what may have been its shortest meeting in history April 25.
The IEB meeting--which is open to members--was scheduled to last two days, and several members of ILWU Local 6 were in attendance because the IEB was set to hear an appeal from Local 6's former president to overturn the recent election of new officers. The situation in Local 6 was the ninth point on the agenda, indicating that the issue wouldn't be discussed until the second day. This point was bound to be contentious because International President James Spinoza has already indicated he plans to side with Local 6's former president and against Local 6's right to elect whomever they choose to local offices.
In a surprise move, Spinosa got a resolution approved by the delegates to Local 6 to be the first point on the agenda. He then got a motion passed declaring this portion of the meeting in "executive session," requiring all but IEB delegates to leave the room. In a matter of minutes, delegates were seen leaving the room, saying that the meeting had been adjourned.
It was later learned that IEB delegate and Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker--one of Local 6's newly elected officers--was asked if he would voluntarily "step down" as Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer. When Pecker refused, several IEB delegates left the room. Spinosa then said, "Since we no longer have a quorum, I declare this meeting adjourned."
Spinosa stated that the next IEB meeting in August would be held in Vancouver, B.C., instead of its usual meeting place of San Francisco. This is obviously a calculated ploy to make it difficult for Local 6 rank and filers to attend the next meeting.
Spinoza's scheme violates the democratic traditions of our union, and with longshore division contracts expiring July 1, his manuvering threatens to fracture our union just as we head into a confrontation with shipping bosses. It's time for Spinosa and the IEB to stop their factional interference in Local 6 and direct their energies towards winning a good contract.Back to the top
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.--About 5,000 union members gathered for the annual AFL-CIO Lobby Day April 24. Large contingents from AFSCME, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) demonstrated their loss of patience with state legislators who are increasingly willing to blame working people for the state's budget crisis. Gov. George Ryan has been especially vicious in attacking AFSCME workers for the state's problems, threatening to lay off up to 5,000 state workers if AFSCME does not agree to a series of contract concessions.
AFSCME Council District 31 Director Henry Bayer told the crowd that there is no way the union would agree to ease the state's financial crisis on the backs of its members. Not only would layoffs hurt the state workers themselves, but the proposed budget reductions would also mean the closing of mental health facilities and the possible closing of rural hospitals.
Christine Boardman, president of SEIU Local 73, put the blame for the crisis squarely on the legislature, which allowed corporations to escape paying their fair share in taxes and caused the budget crunch.
Unfortunately, much of this labor rally was given over to politicians who are organizing for the November elections. This included Michael Madigan, political power broker and minority leader of the Illinois House, and his daughter, Lisa, who is running for state Attorney General.
News reports the next day gave scant coverage to labor's rally. It did, however, give much space to a report that Michael Madigan was uncharacteristically open to discussions with the Republican leadership about their plan for solving the budget crisis--a plan that includes borrowing from the state pension plans to help state finances.
Many rally participants must have wondered at the eagerness with which their "friend" in the legislature would be willing to work with the Republicans in finding a solution that would balance the budget by hurting the working people of Illinois.
On May 7, state workers are planning to show their opposition to these budget cuts by rallying at the capitol building as the Illinois General Assembly votes on the new budget.Back to the top
By Sarah Megan Howery and Robin Gee
MADISON, Wis.--Shouting "Kinko's tricks and lies will not divide workers standing side by side," about 60 union members and supporters picketed a Kinko's April 22 to demand the company recognize its workers' rights to organize.
Workers at Kinko's Capitol location have been working with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1444 in an organizing campaign. Faced with low wages, minimal benefits and unfair overtime schedules, workers contacted the union for help.
After workers organized some well-received meetings with the union in January and February, Kinko's retaliated with intimidation and interrogations. The company forced workers to watch an anti-union video but carefully separated out any employees known to be prounion.
The tactic backfired, however, and shortly after the video was shown, 75 percent of workers signed union cards. "They made the mistake of showing us the video after we'd met with the union," explains one employee. "We knew what they were saying about unionizing was untrue. Most of us were laughing."
On March 13, two workers who had been key union contacts were fired for "creating a divisive environment directly in conflict with company policy." "Kinko's tried to circumvent the union by firing workers and hoping for a cool-down period," said Susan Adams of Local 1444. The fired workers are filing unfair labor practices claim with the National Labor Relations Board.
Union Representative Quinn Ayers said the action served to solidify community support, "Employers can't get away with trampling over workers, and employees should not be intimidated--we have the right to organize!"Back to the top
CHICAGO--The union representing ramp workers and customer service reps reached a tentative agreement with United Airlines for long-delayed raises last week even as the company began negotiating concessions with the pilots' union.
The 25,000 ramp workers and reps, members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 141, will get what the IAM calls "industry-leading" pay increases that make up for concessions taken in 1994 in exchange for employee ownership. Workers will vote May 10 on a deal that grants boosts top pay for ramp workers from $19.26 to $23.79 on the date of signing and $27 over the life of the deal. The customer service reps are scheduled for bigger raises.
However, these gains--like those of IAM mechanics, who recently ratified a similar deal--could be handed back. The same day that the IAM and United announced the tentative agreement, Air Line Pilots Association, which owns the company along with the IAM and management, began discussing givebacks. Management claims concessions are needed because of post-September 11 difficulties, but mismanagement had cost the airline billions well before then.
Members of the Association of Flight Attendants, who don't own stock, have declared that they won't accept concessions, period. That's the spirit that workers at United will need to hold the line on company givebacks.Back to the top
HERSHEY, Pa.--The town that bills itself as the "sweetest place on earth" saw bitter workers hit the streets last week. In the first strike at the Hershey Foods Corp. in 22 years, nearly 3,000 workers, members of Local 464 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, walked out.
The main issue was management's demand for a doubling of workers' health care contribution. Wages would increase 10.78 percent over the same period--far short of what workers need. "This company's making money hand over fist, and there's no reason it can't be shared," Frankleen Gibson told reporters.