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On the picket line

October 29, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11

Northeastern Illinois University
Fremont, Calif., teachers
FAT (Frente Auténtico de Trabajo)

Atlantic City hotels and casinos
By Lee Sustar

SOME 10,000 striking hotel and casino workers in Atlantic City are digging in nearly a month after walking off the job.

The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 54, hit the picket lines October 1 in a multi-city struggle by the union to improve pay, defend health care benefits and build towards national bargaining in the hotels and casinos. Some 4,000 workers in the union's Local 2 were locked out in San Francisco October 13, after employers refused to let the workers return to their jobs following a two-week strike.

The union also has authorized hotel strikes in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., in the effort to gain a common contract expiration date in 2006 with their San Francisco counterparts. The Atlantic City local is fighting for a 2007 contract expiration to coincide with that of UNITE HERE members in Las Vegas.

The employers have the money. Caesars Entertainment, which owns big casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, reported a 21 percent increase in third-quarter income compared with the same period a year earlier. Yet many of the striking workers--who include maids, cocktail servers, pastry cooks and slot machine attendants--earn just $8 per hour.

Hotel management associations--dominated by a handful of giant corporations--want to keep it that way. They're determined to impose rising health care costs onto workers and to prevent the emergence of national bargaining.

In Atlantic City, some 10,000 workers and supporters marched October 18 in a big show of support. They've had some high-profile visits on the picket line, from Rev. Jesse Jackson, musician Wyclef Jean and Sen. Jon Corzine.

The employers are prepared to wait out the workers and starve them back--and try to pressure people into crossing the picket line by taking out full-page ads. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the lockout appears to be turning into a long slog. The urgent question for UNITE HERE members is how to step up the action to put more pressure on the employers.

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Northeastern Illinois University
By a UPI member

CHICAGO--Faculty and staff at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) were set to take a strike vote, as Socialist Worker went to press.

After just six hours of negotiations with a federal mediator October 15, most of which was spent waiting for a response from the administration, talks ended. The administration's new chief negotiator, a union-busting attorney, referred to the university as "the company I represent," and it was clear from statements that he had no intention of advancing negotiations and hadn't even read the union's proposal. The administration wants to slow negotiations in order to delay any confrontation until the holiday break in order to prevent a successful strike.

The following week, University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) held strike preparation meetings, attracting over 200 members to the first of the three meetings. The union has said that to be effective, its members must walk before Thanksgiving.

Reacting to these meetings, the university president issued a memo attacking the union leadership for its "unwillingness" to meet in mediation while the administration was willing to meet "24/7." UPI responded with an open calendar, giving the administration no way out, and negotiations began again October 24.

The strike votes shows, however, that the union continues to prepare for a strike. The union has also appointed a strike captain and put new committees in place to expand membership activity and cover key tasks.

Student solidarity has been strong, which has helped to build the confidence of union members. The ongoing strike at Chicago City Colleges has been instructive and helped build solidarity between the two unions.

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Fremont, Calif., teachers
By John Gallagher

FREMONT, Calif.--Teachers in the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA) are fed up with working without a contract. The old contract--which expired June 30--hasn't kept up with the rising costs of everyday life, yet the district has offered an insulting 1 percent pay raise and floated the idea of eliminating parts of the contract's no lay-off clause.

Teachers plan to send a message to District Superintendent John Reikwald on October 27--"1 percent is not enough!"

Health care costs have risen through the roof for many families and individuals--25 percent over the last two years. Energy costs will rise in January, and the cost of a single family home in California is practically the highest in the nation at $350,000.

The no lay-off clause is especially important to many teachers throughout Fremont and is virtually unheard of in California schools. As several districts were going through sweeping layoffs, most teachers in Fremont were saved because of this important clause.

Negotiations in Fremont coincide with negotiations at several other districts in the area, and plans are being made to build solidarity with these unions.

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FAT (Frente Auténtico de Trabajo)
By Nate Moore

BURLINGTON, Vt.--About 25 people attended a September 28 forum hosted by United Electrical (UE) with the FAT (Frente Auténtico del Trabajo), an independent trade union in Mexico. The forum was part of the Vermont AFL-CIO Convention.

Benedicto, an FAT representative, and Raul Cisneros, a teacher and member of the teachers' union in Guanajuato, talked about the fight for workers rights under neoliberalism. They explained that the labor boards in Mexico consist of a union representative, company representative and a government representative that all work together to suppress workers' demands. Within the state-run unions, there are 700,000 registered contracts, but only 5 percent get renegotiated.

In response to having no representation, teachers in Guanajuato organized SITESABES, a group that has pushed to be affiliated with the FAT. Teachers held a protest and rally at their work site and demanded that their employer permit an election to show they had a majority in support of affiliating with the FAT. Ten teachers were fired as a result, Raul being one of them.

Benedicto explained that Mexicans have not benefited from the outsourcing of jobs from the U.S. On the contrary, 350,000 jobs have been lost in the four years that Vicente Fox has been president. This has happened while 1 million people per year enter the active working population.

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