On the picket line
September 5, 2003 | Page 11
MADISON, Wis.--The University of Wisconsin-Madison's (UW) purchasing department and chancellor's office finally agreed in late August to implement a student government resolution to drop Tyson Foods products for the duration of Local 538's strike against the company.
UW purchases approximately $110,000 worth of Tyson products a year. A group of students has been in contact with UW purchasing about ending the purchase of Tyson products since late May.
Despite a student government resolution and weeks of phone calls, activists were given the bureaucratic runaround. Finally, on August 8, activists flooded the UW purchasing office with phone calls.
Administrators agreed to set up a "meeting" on August 15, expecting only four or five people to attend. Student activists and Tyson strikers organized about 50 people to come to the meeting and organized a picket in front of the administrators' offices the day before the meeting.
Fearing a long, drawn-out battle with a group of dedicated activists and strikers in a community with a high level of support for the strike, school officials agreed to fully cut ties with Tyson. Activists should use this battle as a template for cutting ties with Tyson Foods and supporting strikers in their battle against Tyson's union-busting.
BURLINGTON, Vt.--By a 2-to-1 margin, the 160 licensed nurse practitioners (LPNs) at Vermont's largest hospital voted to unionize. The vote came one month after 1,200 registered nurses (RNs) at Burlington's Fletcher Allen Health Care won one of the best contracts in the country.
Both groups are part of the AFT-affiliated Vermont Federation of Nurses. The priorities for LPNs are job security protections, reduced patient-nurse ratios and an end to mandatory overtime. In July, the RNs won their demands on all these issues.
Solidarity between the different nursing units was crucial. Five-year maternity nurse Anne Reay said that the RN contract contributed a lot to the LPN victory. "They were able to get the hospital to agree not to fight our union drive. We also saw what they were able to do, and we said we want that too."
SEATTLE--More than 100 members and supporters of the Inland Boatmen's Union (IBU) rallied August 10 to protect 150 union jobs. The Washington State ferry system has subcontracted its kitchen work to a company unionized by the IBU, the marine division of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). But this October, the ferry system will for the first time end that agreement without a commitment to keep the work under a union contract.
The rally brought ILWU members together with several other unions, including Carpenters, Service Employees, Teamsters, Hotel and Restaurant Employees, federal and state workers and Jobs with Justice. "It was the rank and file that got the union active on this issue," said Jeff Engels, an IBU official. "We've had this jurisdiction for 50 years, and we're not about to give it up. Rank-and-file power!"
The stakes are high. As one worker said, "I make $13.80 an hour as a cook. If we lose this contract , we could lose our wages, and our pension could be in jeopardy."
The rally was planned to end in a march to the Port of Seattle office to protest the opening of a new non-union tour boat company, America West Steamship, on the otherwise unionized Seattle waterfront. At the last minute, the union forced that company to agree to a union contract, giving momentum to the struggle to save union jobs in the ferry kitchens.
GREENSBORO, N.C.--About 100 protesters assembled in the parking lot of Cone Mills' White Oak plant August 22 to protest cuts in double-time pay. Protesters were able to gather 500 signatures of workers refusing to give up pay.
The White Oak plant produces denim and employs 900 workers who are constantly under the threat of having production moved to Mexico. The protest--organized by UNITE Local 1391--focused on the company's elimination of Sunday double-time pay and layoffs of hundreds of workers for two weeks.
One worker explained to a local journalist that they rely on Sunday double-time wages to pay bills. With the future of another 900 jobs in North Carolina in jeopardy, it's imperative that Local 1391 and the local community stand united against the bosses that are making life for workers unbearable.