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On the picket line

May 20, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Northampton, Mass., teachers
Wal-Mart

Puget Consumers Co-op
By Brooke Weney, UFCW Local 1105

SEATTLE--Workers at Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC) voted on May 5 to accept a concessionary contract settlement. The vote to approve was 97 percent in favor, but less than 120 of the 600 store employees turned out for the vote.

This marks a big reversal of workers' last vote on March 26, in which the workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1105, rejected the company's offer by a 174-to-62 vote. Management then sent a letter to workers stating that they would implement the offer if it was voted down.

Following a closed negotiating session, Local 1105 recommended that workers ratify the contract, without allowing a few days to review it or prepare for a strike.

But little had changed from the offer that workers had voted down. The union was able to get a pay raise of 20 cents per hour, plus another 20 cents later for employees at the top of the scale. But there was a major concession on health care. Newly hired employees will be required to work 24 hours per week to obtain benefits, rather than 16 hours for current employees. The UFCW also dropped all charges filed with the NLRB for harassment and unfair labor practices.

Once the deal was voted in, management invited workers to "celebrate" with a cake that was put out even before negotiations were completed. PCC was saying "let them eat cake," especially since estimated net profits in 2004 were between $14 and $18 million, according to the annual report.

UFCW members at PCC and other stores must demand that their union be a fighting union and do more to be a voice for working people besides lobbying politicians.

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Northampton, Mass., teachers
By Barry Scott and Mark Clinton

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.--More than 30 members and supporters of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) picketed May 14 for a fair contract in front of Town Hall.

The teachers' last contract expired nearly a year ago, and current negotiations have ground to a halt. "We demand progress before the end of the fiscal year [on] June 30," said Robin Barber, a communications teacher at Northampton High School.

In their last contract, the teachers accepted health care concessions. "The funding of our schools has fallen way behind their performance," Barber noted. "Our situation is just a symptom of a national problem."

At other local educational institutions, including Holyoke Community College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, there have been similar events and one-day walkouts to demand decent contracts. Together, these actions highlight the growing willingness of students, teachers and community members to fight for adequately funded public education.

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Wal-Mart
By Patrick Dyer

TOLEDO, Ohio--About 60 workers, students and activists gathered for a May 7 demonstration here to protest Wal-Mart's horrible record on workers' and women's rights.

The protest was organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) on Mother's Day weekend with signs and slogans slamming Wal-Mart's low wages, unequal pay for women, union-busting and refusal to guarantee that pharmacists will fill women's health prescriptions. "In this disgusting economy, being a female employee of Wal-Mart is a horror story," said Danielle Davis of NOW.

More actions like this one will be important for building ongoing community support, and a long-overdue Mother's Day gift for workers everywhere will come when we unionize Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart workers and labor activists can find out more about the UFCW's "Wake-Up Wal-Mart" campaign at www.wakeupwalmart.com.

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