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On the picket line

October 10, 2003 | Page 11

Southern California grocery workers
Miami University
University of California

Tyson Foods
By Marshall Braun and Nathan Fuller

JEFFERSON, Wis.--Going into the eighth month of their strike, Tyson workers are taking their fight to other Tyson meatpacking plants around the country. In late September, at least five "Truth Squads" from Jefferson traveled the Midwest in an effort to spread their struggle to non-unionized Tyson plants.

In one afternoon, more than 300 workers at a Tyson plant employing 1,200 in Storm Lake, Iowa, signed union cards as management nervously looked on. Jefferson strikers also stopped at Wal-Mart stores along the route to pass out leaflets outlining Tyson's deplorable labor practices.

Meanwhile, support for the strikers in Jefferson remains solid. An area dentist is giving free care to strikers, and police are arresting scabs for invalid vehicle registrations. At a September 28 rally, more than 300 supporters listened as heads of various local unions, a Mexican immigrant worker organization and student groups expressed solidarity with the ongoing struggle against Tyson's greed.

Reaching out to other Tyson workers is a step forward, but it would make more sense to organize for solidarity action in plants that are already organized by the UFCW--focusing on the pepperoni plants that are filling the Jefferson plant's orders.

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Southern California grocery workers
By Evan Kornfeld

LOS ANGELES--Union members were preparing to vote on whether to strike at three Southern California grocery chains, as Socialist Worker went to press. Three weeks of negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents the 71,000 workers, and the Vons, Ralph's and Albertson's supermarket chains failed to reach an agreement as the contract expired on October 5.

Management is demanding big increases in deductibles and co-pays for doctor and hospital visits and for prescription drugs, a reduction in employer contributions to employee pension plans, and a two-tier system for employees. Union members were preparing for a strike authorization vote October 8-10 and could be walking the picket line by October 12.

All of Southern California's labor councils are holding rallies October 9 to show their solidarity. UFCW spokesperson Barbara Maynard told Socialist Worker that several unions, including the Teamsters and SEIU, have pledged not to cross picket lines.

UFCW Local 770 President Rick Icaza says, "70,000 unionized grocery workers are ready to stand together from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, from Santa Monica to the Arizona border. Together, we are ready to say 'No Way!'"

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Miami University
By Molly Seifert

OXFORD, Ohio--About 400 janitors, groundskeepers, maintenance and dining hall workers at Miami University (MU) walked off the job September 26 to demand a living wage. MU is considered Ohio's "Ivy League" public university, with the highest tuition of any state school and an average annual tuition increase of 10 percent.

Yet starting wages at prestigious MU are about 20 percent lower than the vast majority of colleges in Ohio. For example, a custodian at Ohio University in Columbus has a starting wage of $10.16 an hour while MU custodians start at just $8.14 an hour.

"They are paying us peanuts, and a lot of us are having to go on welfare and rely on food stamps," said Randy Marcum, a maintenance technician. Wages at MU are so low that approximately 25 percent of employees are on some form of government assistance--food stamps, housing, medical or school-lunch programs. Krista Willis, a housing and dining worker, added, "I don't make enough to pay the babysitter."

While negotiations have remained at a standstill, many MU students and faculty are showing solidarity with the AFSCME workers. About 300 people marched last Friday, and students and faculty have erected a "tent city" to put pressure on the administration.

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University of California
By Sarah Barnes and Chad Walsh

DAVIS, Calif.--Graduate student teaching assistants, tutors and readers who make up Local 2865 of the UAW struck October 3 at eight campuses of the University of California (UC). At stake among the 64 Unfair Labor Practice charges that the union has filed against the university is the union's right to honor other unions' picket lines.

"It is unacceptable to single out the UAW and treat us differently," said Rajan Mehta, a bargaining team member and head steward at UC Berkeley, in a union press release. "Moreover, if the UC administration truly wants to stop sympathy strikes, it should stop its unlawful and uncooperative labor relations practices that give rise to primary strikes."

On the Davis campus, about 60 teaching assistants and tutors picketed and marched all day as many of the classes that they normally teach were either canceled or had to be taught by the faculty.

Lots of undergraduate students came out as well to show their support. One sociology professor even assigned her entire class to interview people on the picket line. Members from other campus unions that represent lecturers as well as the service, clerical and professional-technical employees also showed up to express their solidarity.

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