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Vol. 74/No. 9      March 8, 2010

On the Picket Line
California borax miners
rally for contract

BORON, California—Nine hundred borax miners and their supporters marched and rallied here February 16 as part of a fight against international mining giant Rio Tinto.

More than 500 miners, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 30, have been locked out by the company since January 31, after voting against a proposed contract with deep take-backs.

Demonstrators met at the ILWU Local 30 union hall and marched more than a mile to the mine entrance chanting, “We want a contract, we want to work, and we’ll be back.” In addition to the miners and their families, marchers came from ILWU locals in Los Angeles; San Diego; Port Hueneme, California; Seattle; and Vancouver, British Columbia. Two busloads and a car caravan came from Los Angeles-area locals.

A group of Rite-Aid workers who have been fighting to organize a union attended the rally. They donated money left over from a campaign to defend fired workers.

Willie Adams, vice president of the ILWU, chaired the rally and spoke. Various union officers addressed the rally from the International Longshoremen’s Association, several ILWU locals, United Steelworkers, and the unions represented at the mining and maritime conference that took place February 16-17 in nearby Palmdale, California. Delegates to the conference came from miners and maritime unions in various countries including the United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Conference participants joined the march and rally.

The locked-out workers put on a delicious BBQ after the march, where pledges of support came from the ILWU international and others.

—Mike Downs
ILWU Local 63, retired

Peruvian miners wage
one-week strike over pay

Thousands of precious-metal miners in Peru went on strike February 13-20 against Buenaventura, to demand what they say is withheld profit-sharing pay. The issue remains unresolved and workers may strike again as early as March 3, union leaders say.

By law, mining companies are required to pay workers 8 percent of profits. The miners’ union says the company has underreported profits and demands that Buenaventura disclose its 2006-2009 financial records.

Workers are also demanding the company improve ventilation and general safety. Three workers were killed at the Uchucchacua silver mine last year.

Some 4,380 workers stopped work at half of the company’s six mining districts in the country: the Uchucchacua mine in central Peru and the Antapite and Orcopampa gold mines in the south.

Work ground to a complete halt for one week at the Uchucchacua and Orcopampa mines, while production at Antapite, the smallest of the three, continued to operate at a limited capacity, Carlos Galvez, the company’s chief financial officer, told Reuters.

The strike cost the company $1.5 million per day, according to Luis Castillo, the national miners’ union general secretary.

The government labor ministry declared the strike illegal, giving the company a freer hand to fire workers. Castillo said miners returned to work to avoid losing their jobs, but would likely vote in the next few days to go back out, initiating a second strike as early as the March 3 date.

Peru is the world’s number one silver producer and ranks sixth in gold.

—Doug Nelson

Grocery workers authorize
strike in New England

MARLBORO, Massachusetts, February 21—More than 40,000 supermarket workers from 240 Stop and Shop stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island may soon go on strike.

Some 4,000 workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1445, voted by an overwhelming majority here today to authorize a strike against the supermarket chain. No strike date has been set yet, and the union agreed to a seven-day extension of the expired contract so that negotiations could continue.

Local 1445 is one of five UFCW locals representing the 40,000 workers at Stop and Shop. All five locals have voted to authorize a strike if negotiations prove unsuccessful.

“It’s big business taking more from us,” explained Jim Nangle, a worker at the supermarket in Roslindale, Massachusetts, after the vote here by members of Local 1445.

The workers are resisting company efforts to make them pay more for health insurance, accept a one-time contract signing “bonus” in lieu of wage increases, and agree to lower company contributions to their pension fund.

Stop and Shop took applications for temporary replacement workers at a dozen locations across southern New England prior to the contract expiration last month. The replacement workers would make $12 an hour for part-time and $15 an hour for full-time, about $3 an hour more than new permanent employees now make.

—Ted Leonard

Tea loaders in Kenya win
minimum wage increase

Loaders at tea warehouses in and around the port city of Mombasa, Kenya, united to win wage increases after a four-day strike forced bosses to raise the minimum pay.

Some 2,000 workers effectively shut down the tea distribution network February 8-12 at a port city that hosts one of the world’s largest tea auctions.

The loaders shut down operations because certain companies began paying some workers below the minimum rate established in agreements with the Kenya Shipping Clearing and Warehouse Workers Union. Bosses were attempting to make workers pay for the effects of bad weather on their profits.

George Nesbitt, director of Tea Warehouses Ltd, explained to the press that “all of the companies were affected because there was picketing even at places where they were paying the agreed rate.”

The loaders all resumed work after bosses decided to raise the piece-rate wages of the lowest-paid workers by 20 percent.

—Doug Nelson
Related articles:
Millions of workers have no job prospects in ‘recovery’
Rhode Island high school fires all 74 teachers to bust union
California workers discuss attacks on unions  
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