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Vol. 76/No. 7      February 20, 2012

On the Picket Line

Aluminum workers strike
against concession contract

DAVENPORT, Iowa—Bundled up against a cold rain, members of Teamsters Local 371 maintained 24-hour picket lines at Nichols Aluminum casting and rolling plants here Feb. 4. Nichols is a subsidiary of Quanex Building Products Corp. The strike began Jan. 20. Some 220 workers out of 254 in the plants are members of Local 371.

Mechanic James Gaul said the union agreed to wage concessions in previous contracts. “We signed some contracts in the past that we shouldn’t have, to keep our health insurance the way it was. Now they want us to pay 20 percent of the premiums, with a $6,000 annual deductible.” The company also wants a two-tier wage scale and a wage freeze during a four-year contract.

Dan Barry, a union steward, said he was inspired by a solidarity rally in front of both plants Jan. 28. “There were at least 200 people from different unions in the area. They were steelworkers, autoworkers, communications workers, and teachers from the National Education Association.” The rally was initiated by United Steelworkers Local 105, which organizes Alcoa Aluminum workers here.

“I’ve been changed by going out on strike and getting this kind of support,” Barry told the Militant. “I was ignorant about what was going on with labor. But now, if someone else is on strike, I plan to help them.”

Nichols Aluminum did not return phone calls from the Militant seeking comment.

Negotiations between Nichols Aluminum and the Teamsters resumed two weeks after the strike began.

The company is attempting to maintain some production with management personnel and by hiring replacement workers.

—David Rosenfeld

Locked out for over 14 months,
NY building workers win ruling

NEW YORK—“They’re trying to break the unions,” locked-out worker Lucien Clarke told the Militant Jan. 28 at the picket line in front of the Flatbush Gardens apartment complex in Brooklyn. “All of us have to make a stand. We have to stand strong.”

Some 70 porters and maintenance workers were locked out of their jobs at the complex by the owners, Renaissance Equity Holdings, Nov. 29, 2010, after refusing to accept a more than 30 percent cut in wages and benefits.

In 2011 Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ filed unfair labor practice charges against Renaissance with the National Labor Relations Board.

On Jan. 25, the NLRB filed an injunction against Renaissance to end the lockout and reinstate the workers at their prior wages and benefits. The filing will next go before a federal judge.

“We’re still waiting to see what the judge is going to say,” said Clarke. “We’re still waiting, still picketing, still fighting.”

The locked-out workers picket seven days a week and have received strong support from the community, including Flatbush Gardens residents.

“On Christmas Day one guy from a church close by brought donations,” said Clarke. “And Verizon and UPS workers are honoring our picket line.” The pickets and UPS workers allow the delivery of medicines. Con Edison workers don’t cross the line unless there’s a gas leak or another emergency, he said.

—Deborah Liatos

NY cable workers walk out,
push back bosses’ cuts

Some 100 cable installation workers walked off the job Feb. 2 in Yonkers, N.Y., seeking union backing and higher wages.

They work for CorBell, a contractor that does installation work for Cablevision in the Bronx and Westchester County.

One week earlier, 282 workers in Brooklyn became the first Cablevision employees to join a union when they voted to be represented by the Communications Workers of America.

When CorBell workers showed up for work the morning of Feb. 2, bosses informed them of new work rules and a variable wage scale. The workers responded by striking. They met in the parking lot and called the CWA for assistance.

Ken Spatta, chief steward for CWA Local 1101, which represents Verizon workers, went to Yonkers to meet the strikers. Spatta said when he met with company representatives he was told, “They are in the streets. They can stay there.” They did stay there, where they were warmly supported by passersby and neighborhood residents.

By 2 p.m. the company agreed to negotiate, giving a $2 raise per truck stop and returning a $5 wage deduction it had taken that morning for TV and Internet installation. Although other demands were not addressed, the workers agreed to return to work.

“We are still underpaid and we are working to get the other contracting company employees involved with us,” Winston Wright, one of the strikers told the Militant.

—Dan Fein

‘We’re not giving up seniority,’
say striking NY building workers

FAR ROCKAWAY, Queens, N.Y.— Workers and their supporters have kept the picket line up in front of Dayton Beach Park Co-Op apartments every day here since they went on strike July 7, 2011.

More than a dozen workers were on the picket line Jan. 28. Many people driving by or entering the complex waved and honked in support.

The 27 workers, members of SEIU Local 32BJ, went on strike in response to management’s contract demands that include higher health insurance, a four-year wage freeze, and layoffs.

“We are down to 25 workers, union steward Ray Ceballos told the Militant while picketing. “The board wants to reduce the staff by six. Then they’ll write us up if we don’t get all the work done. The union agreed to a reduction of three people but board president Jennifer Grady had a list of senior men she wanted to get rid of. We said no. We told the board we’re not giving up seniority.”

—Deborah Liatos

Related articles:
Longshore workers win union at EGT terminal
Caterpillar shuts Canada plant, workers picket for severance pay
Locked-out tire workers in Ohio win solidarity
Reach out from Serbian workers to Toledo students
Using bankruptcy, American Airlines to lay off 13,000
Wood donation aids sugar workers’ pickets  
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