The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 71/No. 5           February 5, 2007  
On the Picket Line
Janitors in Minneapolis
vote to authorize a strike

MINNEAPOLIS—Chanting “Yes, we can” in Spanish, English, and Somali, more than 500 janitors meeting at the United Labor Center here voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike January 13. Their contract expired December 31.

The workers are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, which represents 4,200 janitors. Negotiations broke off in late December after 18 building contractors refused to provide adequate health-care coverage. The bosses are offering a 20-cent pay raise.

“Out of 2,100 full-time employees, only half can afford the companies’ medical insurance and only 14 members are on the family plan,” said SEIU Local 26 president Javier Morillo.

“We have to be ready to fight now against this lack of respect,” said Cecilia Garcia, a member of the union bargaining committee. “We deserve to be treated like human beings.”

In November Morillo and other members of the union traveled to Houston to support the 1,700 janitors who were on strike there. He and 40 others were arrested on charges of obstructing a busy Houston intersection.

—Nelson Gonzalez  
Striking Machinists in Arizona
approve contract with Raytheon

LOS ANGELES—Production workers at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona, voted 766-186 to accept a new three-year contract January 14, ending their 10-week strike.

International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 933 represents 1,900 production workers at Raytheon, 1,400 of whom are union members. About 40 percent of the workers either never struck or had gone back to work.

One key issue in the strike was the company demand to nearly double health insurance premiums, while leaving the door open for unlimited increases in co-payments and other costs. According to press reports, the new contract will cap medical cost increases in the range of 12 percent to 19 percent. The pact includes a 3 percent annual wage increase and a $1,000 bonus for each worker.

—Naomi Craine and Michael Ortega  
Philadelphia-area meat packers
stop work to protest bonus cut

SOUDERTON, Pennsylvania—More than 100 workers from the kill floor department at the MOPAC meatpacking plant outside Philadelphia refused to return to work after first break December 15. They were protesting rumors that the company would not pay a Christmas bonus.

MOPAC, a cattle processor employing 1,000 workers, is owned by industry giant Smithfield Foods. In recent years, the company has defeated two union-organizing drives.

Workers took their protest to the cafeteria. One manager pleaded with them to return, saying the company couldn’t afford a bonus. The pleading turned into threats as police from 22 local agencies were called in to force workers back. By lunch, more than 70 cops, including some armed with shotguns and a SWAT team with dogs, were patrolling the cafeteria and the area outside the plant.

The meat packers returned to work. Two were grabbed by cops and arrested. By December 18, the company had fired six, including the two arrested. Later the bosses announced they would pay a bonus based on 10 hours pay, half the amount of previous years. Efforts are now under way to press for reinstatement of the fired workers.

—John Staggs  
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