A featured workshop was on sexual harassment. Speakers included Lois Jensen, who worked at the Eveleth Taconite Mine on the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota. She and other workers there filed a class action lawsuit in 1988 against the company charging sexual harassment at the mine. The decision in late 1991 that the women miners could sue as a class served as a precedent for the more recent Mitsubishi case.
A report-back from the International Conference on Women and Mining, held in the Philippines, discussed the impact on villages and the environment where gold-mining companies moved in as a result of 1995 legislation favorable to the companies.
At the "Organizing" workshop it was noted that the UMWA has had an 80 percent success rate in its organizing attempts. Diane Johnson, a Navajo miner, reported on her recent participation in a successful drive to organize 300 government workers on the Navajo Nation into the UMWA.
Gabriele Glaubrecht of the Industrial Union of Mining, Chemical, and Energy Workers in Germany addressed the conference and described increasing attacks on health care, retirement benefits and other social gains, as well as government attempts to restrict trade union rights. UMWA president Cecil Roberts, AFL-CIO executive vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson, and Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labor, also spoke.
The conference discussed CEP's "On Target for Jobs" campaign, which was adopted at last year's conference. A few women did get hired in Pennsylvania and Illinois as a result, but these mines have since laid off or are no longer hiring new workers. Participants were urged to contact CEP if they hear of any hiring.
UAW members settle strike at Verson Corp.
CHICAGO - After voting July 21 to settle their 29-day strike against Verson Corp., some members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2006 found themselves forced back out "on vacation." Throughout the strike, management asserted that they were maintaining normal production levels and meeting all their scheduled deliveries using supervisory personnel. Upon returning to work, however, the 460 production workers were able to confirm that the supervisory workforce had produced nothing. "They only managed to ship out the work that we had already completed before we went on strike," said Roosevelt Garret III, shop chairman of Local 2006.
The managers had also farmed out some of the work that the union members had started, creating a situation where the returning workers had nothing to do. The company's solution was to force the workers further down the assembly line to take their vacations and threaten layoffs until production could be restarted.
Verson, a division of the Allied Corp., builds stamping presses for the automotive, home appliance, and agricultural implements industries. The strike, the first in the local's 20-year history, remained solid. After nearly a month on the picket lines, only three members had crossed.
The key issues in the strike included the pension plan, which has been frozen since 1984 at $16 per year of service, a cost of living allowance frozen since 1982, a company demand for forced overtime even though most production workers had been "voluntarily" working 53 hours per week, and the company's demand to add a fourth tier to the pay- scale. Details of the settlement were not immediately available.
Communication workers picket Sprint in San Juan
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -About 20 communications workers staged a picket line here July 14 in front of the offices of the telecommunications giant Sprint. They demanded that Sprint pay $10 million in back wages to workers in California who were fired when they tried to organize a union. The picket line was part of coordinated protests in front of Sprint offices in the United States, Mexico, and Europe.
In 1994 the workers at a Sprint office in San Francisco were trying to organize a union. The job of the workers was to recruit Spanish-speaking customers for Sprint's long distance services. Eight days before the union vote, Sprint closed the office and fired the 177 workers. The National Labor Relations Board took two years to decide in the workers' favor, but the company still has not paid.
New union vote set for N. Carolina textile mills
Some 5,500 workers at six Fieldcrest Cannon mills in the Kannapolis, North Carolina, area will vote August 12 - 13 on whether to join the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). A 1991 organizing drive at the plants lost by just 200 votes. Since then the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the company violated federal labor laws in its antiunion campaign. The new vote is mandated to take place off company property, several workers fired in 1991 were reinstated, and union organizers have unprecedented access to workers on the job as part of the court-ordered remedies. A UNITE spokesperson said that in a July survey conducted by the union, nearly 3,000 workers responded in support of the union and less than 300 said they were opposed.
Mechanics vote for union at Continental Airlines
A majority of the nearly 5,000 mechanics at Continental Airlines voted to affiliate to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, union officials announced July 23. These workers have been unorganized since 1983, when then- Continental CEO Frank Lorenzo succeeded in busting the unions at the airline. The recent vote leaves Delta Airlines as the only major U.S. carrier where mechanics are not unionized. In the recent period Continental has moved to outsource maintenance work and closed maintenance bases in Los Angeles and Denver, laying off nearly 2,000 mechanics.
Peggy Kreiner, member of United Steelworkers of America Local 1211, in Pittsburgh; Mary Zins, member of USWA Local 447 and the CEP; Cappy Kidd, member of UAW Local 890 in Chicago; and Ron Richards, member of the American Federation of Government Employees in San Juan, contributed to this column.
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