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On the picket line

June 21, 2002 | Page 11

Solidarity with immigrant airport screeners
Coca-Cola and Remy Martin
Hershey chocolate workers victory

New York City teachers

By a UFT member

NEW YORK--After 19 months without a contract, the United Federation of Teachers--the union that represents public school teachers--reached a settlement with the city last week. While the deal offers teachers a significant raise, the proposed contract is full of concessions and work-rule changes that many teachers oppose.

On the surface, the raise seems great--the contract provides for a 16 percent across-the-board raise over two-and-a-half years. Newer teachers at the lowest end of the pay scale would receive a slightly higher raise in an effort to address the city's massive teacher shortage.

However, the contract is full of holes. While 9 percent of the raise is retroactive, the agreement also calls for a longer workday beginning in September. As a result, this is not a raise--we're getting paid for working longer hours.

Under the proposed contract, the extra 100 minutes a week could either be used for 20 additional minutes of instructional time on a daily basis, two 50-minute blocks twice a week or for professional development, tutoring and other vaguely defined activities. Each superintendent is given full authority to decide how the time is used without input from teachers.

At a time when teachers are already overworked and underpaid, lengthening the workday is an unacceptable giveback. The proposed contract also includes other concessions that undermine teachers' rights in the workplace.

Disciplinary procedures for teachers accused of serious misconduct have also been weakened. This is tantamount to finding teachers guilty until proven innocent, which could have a devastating impact for teachers who are falsely accused of such violations. The contract also sets up further divisions among teachers by setting up separate pay scales for certified and uncertified teachers.

While the proposal provides what at first glance appears to be a well-deserved raise--especially considering how underpaid New York City teachers are compared to surrounding districts--this raise is tied to too many concessions.

Teachers should vote no on this contract and fight for a contract that provides a real raise with no concessions.

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Solidarity with immigrant airport screeners

By Jeremy Sawyer, Brian Cruz and Eduardo Capulong

SAN FRANCISCO--Labor activists are organizing to defend two workers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) who were victimized for daring to fight for their jobs.

In May, Globe Aviation Services, which supervises baggage screeners at SFO, accused Erlinda Valencia and Aurora Rallonza of insubordination "for giving interviews and talking to the media." The two had spoken out against the post-September 11 Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which requires screeners to be U.S. citizens. As a result of the law, about 800 immigrant workers stand to lose their jobs at SFO alone.

Valencia and Rallonza--members of Service Employees International Union Local 790--have been at the forefront of the campaign against the citizenship requirement. On June 12, they were joined by 50 airport workers and supporters for a rally at SFO.

During their march, workers carried a coffin--symbolizing the demise of their civil rights in the wake of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. Protesters also expressed their solidarity with airport security workers, who are also under attack. "We have to continue to fight until the ears in Washington hear us," Rallonza said. "Screeners have to fight together."

Two days later, a delegation of about 25 labor activists marched on Globe corporate offices in Chicago to deliver a letter of protest against the disciplinary action against the two. The protesters were led by SFO workers Bien Conanan and Leticia Santo, who were in town to speak at the political conference Socialism 2002.

At Globe, the demonstrators demanded to see John Henert, the company's human resources director. Reached by phone by the receptionist, Henert refused to see the delegation, claiming that he was in a meeting.

Chanting "Hands off Erlinda, hands off Aurora," activists vowed to keep up the pressure. "We won't let Globe get away with it," said Conanan.

Contact John Henert and demand that the Globe lift its shameful disciplinary actions against Erlinda and Aurora. Call 312-322-8571. Fax 312-322-8555.

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By Jason Rosbuld and George Vouros

SAN FRANCISCO--About 45 workers with Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 2 at the Courtyard Marriott on Fisherman's Wharf went on strike June 1. The two major demands are workload reduction and a pay raise.

The standard workload in the city's union hotels is 14 rooms or less per shift, but at Marriott workers have to clean 16 rooms. "People here are so overworked, they get hurt much more often than in other places," said Darrel White, a hotel worker. "We don't even have time to take our lunch break."

Workers haven't had a raise since 1998. "Marriott made a lot of money when business was good, but we didn't receive any benefits from this boom," said Virginia Lopez, another hotel worker. "Other hotels start pay at $14, but all we are asking for is a raise to $12.58--the standard union rate in the city--and they won't even give us this."

Management is trying to use scabs to keep up operations, but so far business is down 50 percent. UPS and other delivery workers have refused to cross the workers' picket line in front of the hotel, strengthening workers' determination to keep up their struggle.

"The boss better listen to us because we are ready to stay out for as long it takes," said Clarice, a room cleaner.

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Coca-Cola and Remy Martin

By Laura Durkay

NEW YORK--About 50 people gathered June 7 to protest the union-busting tactics of Coca-Cola and Remy Martin. Activists have targeted these two leading beverage companies for their anti-union tactics, which are especially directed at workers in developing countries.

The demonstration began at Coke headquarters, where demonstrators focused on Coke's bottling plant in Colombia, where anti-union bosses allowed members of paramilitary death squads to enter the plant and murder trade union activists.

The demonstration then marched to the headquarters of alcohol manufacturer Remy Martin. Haitian workers who produce orange extract for the company's liqueur Cointreau are paid $1.50 per day and beaten if they discuss organizing a union.

Wilson Borges, a Colombian union activist who survived an assassination attempt last December, spoke at the closing rally. "Only the unity of all workers can defeat the greed of capital," he said.

The demonstration was organized by a broad coalition of labor solidarity, anti-sweatshop and Latin American solidarity groups.

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Hershey chocolate workers victory

MORE THAN 29 million Hershey chocolate bars. That's the amount of chocolate that Hershey Foods Corp. CEO Richard Lenny could afford to buy with his 2001 salary of $22,425,470.

"Lenny the Rat," as workers call him, was in for a not-so-sweet shock in April, though, when 2,700 workers at two chocolate plants struck after twice rejecting a company offer that insisted on massive increases in health care co-payments.

After 44 days--the longest strike in company history and the first strike since 1980--Hershey workers won their strike. Workers voted 1,848 to 226 to accept the company's latest contract offer.

They will receive a $525 signing bonus and annual pay raises of between 2 and 3 percent each year for four years. Although the raises are slightly less than what workers were asking for, health care co-payments will not increase--a clear victory for the workers of Chocolate Workers Local 464.

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