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   Vol. 70/No. 8           February 27, 2006  
On the Picket Line
Steelworkers strike in Ontario
now into its eighth month

HAWKESBURY, Ontario—The strike by United Steelworkers Local 8580 against IKO is now into its eighth month. The walkout began July 13, 2005, when IKO, a major producer of shingle and other roofing materials, demanded contract concessions, including a health benefit plan that would allow company officials to pry into employees’ medical records. IKO has refused to negotiate with the union. Six workers have crossed the picket line, while more than 70 unionists remain on strike. “They’re out to break the union but they will not succeed,” said Patrick Lemay, who has 20 years at the plant.

—Annette Kouri  
Auto workers in Atlanta
condemn Ford plant closing

ATLANTA—“They just want to get away from paying union wages to workers,” said Robert Cobb, 38, a production worker at the Ford assembly plant here in response to the announcement that the company is shutting the factory here, idling 2,100 workers. This closing, coupled with the previously announced shutdown of the General Motors plant in Doraville, Georgia, by 2008, affecting 3,100 workers, leaves the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, as the only UAW-organized auto assembly plant in the South. Ford’s plan is to shut down seven assembly plants, and 14 factories overall.

—Miguel Zarate  
Meat workers in New Zealand
strike for higher pay

WELLINGTON, New Zealand—Nearly 200 workers picketed the Taylor Preston meat works here February 7, the first morning of a three-day strike. Strikers held signs highlighting their low wages to oncoming traffic. “It’s not a meat works, it’s a sweatshop” read one of the home-made placards.

Last December, union members voted 223 to 1 to reject the company’s pay offer of 30 cents to 40 cents hourly raises, adding up to $1.00 to $1.30 in three years’ time. The union reports that following the vote the company accused Meat Union plant president Tuki Teautama of theft for using the company photocopier to make six copies of the results of the secret ballot to post on noticeboards.

Workers start on temporary contracts at the legal minimum wage of NZ$9.50 (US$6.45). Vailega Nanumea, a cleaner, had finished her overnight shift and then waited at the plant gate until other pickets arrived. Years before, she said, “I had been looking for a strike but the union was not strong enough. Now it is.”

—Ruth Gray and Janet Roth  
Catfish workers in Alabama
fight for union

EUTAW, Alabama—Some 60 workers at the Southfresh Farms catfish processing plant here walked off the job December 19 to protest unequal pay for trimmers. The one-day walkout resulted in an immediate raise to $7.25 an hour for all trimmers, workers said, and has given impetus to a broader fight for better pay and working conditions, and for union recognition. “We knew we needed a majority of workers—if we only had 10 workers walk out, we would have been fired,” said Trinesa Davis, 36, who has worked as a trimmer at Southfresh for a year.

A representative from the United Food and Commercial Workers union from Birmingham met with the workers here in Eutaw. A local official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference opened up an activities center for the meeting. All 60 workers who walked out signed union cards that day. Nearly 100 workers met with the union January 21 to discuss how to move ahead. Most workers at Southfresh get $5.25 an hour and often work less than 30 hours a week.

—Susan LaMont  
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