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Vol. 76/No. 9      March 5, 2012

On the Picket Line

S.F.: Cruise ship waiters
walk off, win full pay

SAN FRANCISCO—Waiters on the Italian cruise ship Costa Deliziosa walked off the job when it docked here in January. They were protesting underpayment. Bosses attempted to pay them the same numerical amount per their agreement—but in dollars instead of euros—in effect about one-third less.

Dozens of waiters gathered on the dock the night of Jan. 27. Other workers were not allowed to leave the ship, strikers told a local radio station.

The waiters are part of a crew of around 1,000 that staffs the seven-story vessel, serving 2,300 passengers, which left Savona, Italy, Dec. 28.

Before long, several worker delegates and two union officials from the San Francisco Labor Council found themselves in the captain’s quarters discussing the grievance. Participating by phone were representatives of the Federazione Italiana Trasporti FIT-CISL, which has a collective bargaining agreement with Costa Cruises, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, to which FIT-CISL is affiliated.

The company agreed to pay the waiters their full monthly salary and promised none of the workers involved would be victimized. The ship left San Francisco the next day, bound for Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and beyond.

—Eric Simpson

Iowa: Strikers at aluminum plant
again reject two-tier wage offer

DAVENPORT, Iowa—Striking members of Teamsters Local 371 continued round-the-clock picketing at the two Nichols Aluminum plants here after soundly rejecting the company’s “last, best, and final offer” on Feb. 15. “The vote was overwhelming—202 against and 3 for,” the local’s president, Howard Spoon, told the Militant.

Drivers passing by honked their horns and shouted support for the picketers.

Ken Allsbrow, a striker on the picket line, described the new offer as “the same sandwich flipped over.”

The rejected offer included concessions that were part of the contract proposal that workers voted down Jan. 20—big increases in medical insurance co-payments and deductibles and two-tier wages that would pay new hires $5 less per hour.

“I could go for two-tier pay if it ended after 60 or 90 days,” Allsbrow said, “but not if the new hires never get up to the same pay. That’s a union-breaker right there.”

Nichols President Tom Brackmann told the Quad Cities Dispatch Argus the company will continue to run the plant with supervisors and strikebreakers supplied by temporary agencies.

—Maggie Trowe

D.C. hospital workers
picket in contract fight

WASHINGTON, D.C.—More than 125 hospital workers and supporters conducted an informational picket line in front of Howard University Hospital here Feb. 15.

It was the second picket called by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2094. The local has 1,000 members, which include all hospital workers except nurses and security personnel. A group of hospital nurses participated during lunch.

The hospital workers’ contract expired in October. “They want to take away shift differentials, holiday pay and health benefits,” Local 2094 President Lauretta Stevenson told the Militant.

“We haven’t had a cost-of-living raise or anything,” said hospital worker Pamela Jeffero. “We’re understaffed and they won’t hire more people. The administration is just trying to bust the union.”

—Omari Musa

Steelworkers rally at Tesoro
refinery in Washington

ANACORTES, Wash.—Fifty members of Steelworkers Local 12-591 marched out of work at lunchtime Feb. 14 to join 50 supporters outside the Tesoro refinery here.

Although the union has reached a national agreement with Tesoro for the six refineries organized by the Steelworkers, some issues related to pensions, health care, safety and vacations are negotiated separately with each local. No local agreements have yet been reached.

Job safety was a central concern at the rally. Seven workers were killed in an explosion at the refinery in April 2010. According to a union statement, the company has failed to address “on-site emergency response needs.”

“We treated five of the seven people who died in the 2010 explosion and don’t want to see that happen again,” said Julia Weinberg, president of the Washington State Nurses Association.

Edwin Fruit

Minn.: Hotel workers picket over
owners’ drive to cut health care

ST. PAUL, Minn.—More than 50 members and supporters of UNITE HERE Local 17 picketed in front of the Saint Paul Hotel here Feb. 16.

Workers at the hotel have been in contract negotiations since November. The owners’ proposal would undercut all other hotel contracts in the Twin Cities area, impose a two-tier wage system reducing wages by as much as $5 per hour and have workers pay toward their health insurance.

“Some of the lower-paid workers may have to forgo health insurance,” Desiree King, chief steward and a server at the hotel restaurant, told the Militant. “With contributions ranging from $800 to $1,200, this is almost a month’s pay.”

Saint Paul Hotel workers have had only a 1 percent wage increase since 2007.

—Natalie Morrison

Related articles:
Calif. foundry workers fight immigrant firings
Workers’ unity steeled in previous strike battle
Locked-out Rio Tinto workers ‘fighting for future’
Strike reflects changing working class in Israel  
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