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On the picket line

September 9, 2005 | Pages 14 and 15

Museum of Fine Arts
Austin Capitol Metro Transit

Northwest Airlines
By Lee Sustar

THE STRIKE by 4,400 mechanics at Northwest Airlines went into its third week with management scrambling to hide reports of maintenance problems. Meanwhile, solidarity efforts for the workers, represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), continued despite scabbing and hostility from other unions.

In Detroit, about 100 members of AMFA Local 5 and its supporters marched in the Labor Day parade. "With the assault on labor right now, it was important for us to be out with all the unions," AMFA Local 5 President Bob Rose told the Detroit Free Press.

In Minneapolis, strikers raised the stakes September 1 by attempting to block a bus taking scabs to the airport and picketing at hotels where scabs are being lodged. Management responded by filing a lawsuit against the union.

As long as Northwest pilots and flight attendants keep crossing picket lines, management is confident in its ability to break AMFA, including possibly replacing the strikers. Solidarity efforts such as those in Detroit and Minneapolis need to be built upon. If AMFA is left to stand alone, the rest of airline labor will be targeted next.

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Museum of Fine Arts
By Julie Keefe

BOSTON—About 150 people rallied outside the Museum of Fine Arts on August 30 to support the struggle of museum security guards to protect their wages and benefits.

Members of the Museum Independent Security Union (MISU) rallied in front of the museum on the night of an elite cocktail party celebrating its newest exhibit. The exhibit, sponsored by billionaire Bill Koch features the yacht he used to win the America's Cup and the yacht that came in second place (which he purchased). The exhibit is called "Bill Koch: Things I Love."

As fancy party attendees had their drivers drop them off at the museum doors, workers yelled, "They say cut back, we say fight back" and "What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!" A huge banner read "Malcolm Rogers [the museum director] is making $500,000 a year, why is he taking money away from his low-wage workers?" There was a huge blow-up rat with Rogers' salary written on its body. A favorite chant was "Fat rat, what do you think of that?"

MISU member Chris Stevens told Socialist Worker that he thought nearly every off-duty security guard, as well as off-duty maintenance workers, were present at the rally.

According to a Boston Globe op-ed by MISU president and night guard Michael Raysson, the entire cost of maintaining workers' overtime hours and current benefits is approximately $50,000—slightly less than Rogers' raise last year. The museum guards have been without a contract for over six months. The museum has refused to relent in its attempts to destroy overtime wages, cut the amount of full-time workers and slash sick leave and pension benefits.

Stevens said that the anti-union management was not only trying to get rid of full time workers but also, "send a message to other workers at the museum, such as food service or facilities, 'Don't unionize, we won't negotiate.'"

This message is important to management as they finalize details on their plan for a half-billion-dollar expansion of the museum. The rally was an important show of solidarity and confidence for MISU members and their supporters. Guards are determined to prevent the "Walmartization" of their museum.

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Austin Capitol Metro Transit
By Jason Netek

AUSTIN, Texas—About 50 people gathered recently for a board meeting of the local Capital Metro Transit Authority, which oversees Austin public transit and the University of Texas shuttle service.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1091, representing about 75 percent of the city's bus drivers, disagrees with the board's idea of implementing a "two-tier" wage system that the union considers a union-busting tactic. Instead, they are demanding a wage hike, declaring that "All workers have a right to a living wage."

After two hours of negotiations, StarTran (the company contracted by CapMetro to employ the drivers) and the union came to an agreement—which was immediately shot down by the company's attorney. The union has accused the attorney of negotiating in bad faith, intentionally attempting to confuse the union by making offers and then removing them, in an attempting to provoke a strike.

The union wants CapMetro to stop wasting company money on an attorney, and leave the union and the employers free to negotiate directly. The board has made it clear they have no intention of appeasing the union, and the union has made it clear they're prepared to strike.

ATU Local 1549, representing around 65 percent of the University of Texas shuttle drivers, has grievances with their new employer, FirstTransit, which has broken the contract from the previous employer, ATC/Vancom in numerous ways including: unfairly firing two good and safe workers, for seemingly no reason, refusing to honor the raise given by the previous employer, and slashing benefits while raising costs of health care coverage.

Local 1549 has reserved the right to strike at any time, and has pledged to not scab on their fellow workers of local 1091. The two unions may also strike at the same time, in solidarity. It's great to see two unions preparing to fight.

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