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Vol. 76/No. 10      March 12, 2012

On the Picket Line

Canada Caterpillar workers
win increased severance pay

MONTREAL—On the heels of weeks of determined picketing and solidarity action by members of Canadian Auto Workers Local 27, the 465 workers at the Caterpillar locomotive plant in London, Ontario, Feb. 23, ratified a deal with Electro-Motive Canada on severance pay and pensions that goes beyond the legal minimum. The agreement passed in a 400-22 vote.

The workers were locked out Jan. 1 after rejecting the bosses’ demands for a 50 percent wage cut and steep cuts to pensions and benefits. The company closed the factory Feb. 3.

Following the shutdown announcement, the workers maintained picket lines to prevent unfinished locomotives and equipment from being taken out of the plant before establishing an agreement on the severance package.

Labor laws in Ontario stipulate workers with less than five years on the job aren’t entitled to severance, while those with more than five years experience get one week’s pay for each year served to a maximum of 26 weeks.

The agreement stipulates three weeks pay for each year served with no cap and includes workers with less than five years experience.

“The company was feeling the pressure from us and the media,” Rick Walter, a locomotive painter, said in a phone interview.

“What I will get with six and a half years seniority sort of covers the time I have lost,” said Walter. “But, it is grim out there. I have been sending out resumes, but there is nothing.”

“Personally I wasn’t all that happy,” welder Nelson Sarky told the Militant. “But, we are damn proud of what we did. We didn’t give in to corporate greed. Hopefully what we did will help other people.”

John Steele and Michel Dugré

Los Angeles ‘carwasheros’
win contract, lunch breaks

LOS ANGELES—Car wash workers celebrated winning union contracts at car washes in South Central Los Angeles—the second and third to be organized into the United Steelworkers union—at a news conference by the Vermont Car Wash Feb. 21. “We are carwasheros fighting for justice and dignity,” chanted participants.

“We worked for 10 hours and would get paid for five,” Manuel Aguilar, who works at this car wash, told the crowd. “We had no lunch breaks. If we tried to sit down for five minutes the manager would come and shake the table and tell us to get back to work. With the union we will be paid for our hours of work and get an uninterrupted lunch break. I want to tell other carwasheros, ‘Don’t be afraid. Let’s unite.’”

Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO, was among the speakers. “This should be the headline: Car wash workers make history in L.A.,” he said. “And the labor movement and Los Angeles community stand shoulder to shoulder with them.”

Wendy Lyons

Calif. country club workers
protest two years of lockout

PLEASANTON, Calif.—More than 300 people from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond joined two dozen Castlewood Country Club food service and janitorial workers to demand “End the lockout now!” The Feb. 25 march from downtown Pleasanton to the golf course marked two years since 61 members of UNITE HERE Local 2850 were locked out after rejecting management’s concession contract.

Staff and workers from the Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Teamsters, Longshore and Warehouse union, and other unions participated along with a contingent from nearby St. Mary’s College and activists from Occupy Oakland.

Workers used to get medical benefits without charge. But then “Castlewood demanded that workers with families pay $739 a month,” said locked-out worker Francisca Carranza.

UNITE HERE officials report that a ruling is expected March 1 reviewing the decision by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board last August that the lockout is illegal.

Joel Britton

Newspaper strikers in Greece
publish weekly to win support

ATHENS, Greece—“Nearly 800 employees, administrative staff, press operators, journalists, photographers and translators, from all of the paper’s departments have been on strike since the end of December,” Magda Klavdianou, a copy editor with 16 years at Eleftherotypia newspaper here, told the Militant. “We have not been paid since last August.”

“We want to be excluded from the company’s bankruptcy protection proceedings,” she added. “We are employees and not creditors.”

Eleftherotypia was the second-largest daily in Greece.

“The first to bring food donations to us were the strikers from Alter TV,” Klavdianou said. “And the president of the striking steelworkers at Halivourgia spoke at our membership meeting and gave us courage.”

Alter TV workers have not been paid for more than a year. Some 500 people attended a Jan. 30 concert in solidarity with the Eleftherotypia and Alter TV strikers.

On Feb. 15 the Eleftherotypia workers’ published the first issue of their own 56-page weekly newspaper. “Support of the trade union movement and of working people will be essential for us to continue publishing and advancing the fight,” said striking Eleftherotypia journalist Moisis Litsis in an interview.

“Solidarity is our strength,” said Yannis Fovakis, an image processor.

Georges Mehrabian
and Maria Plessa

Related articles:
Caravan builds support for locked-out workers
Kicks off with sugar workers’ rally in Minn.far
Port workers in New Zealand strike over new ‘labor model’
‘We need to enforce safety codes’ on the docks
Locked-out Ohio tire workers vote for contract  
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