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Vol. 76/No. 15      April 16, 2012

On the Picket Line

Iowa aluminum strikers fight
pay freeze, two-tier wage scale

DAVENPORT, Iowa—Some 160 members of Teamsters Local 371 and their supporters rallied outside the Nichols Aluminum plant here March 26, determined to keep fighting the bosses’ concession contract demands.

The Teamsters have been on strike since Jan. 20 against company demands for a pay freeze, a two-tier wage scale and employee health care costs that would include 20 percent of the insurance premiums and a $6,000 annual deductible. Of the 254 workers in the plant before the strike, 220 are members of Local 371.

“How I see it, Nichols is looking at other companies that have imposed two-tier wages and increased costs for medical insurance, and they want to shove it down our throats,” Scott Antle, 51, told the Militant. “They don’t care about the working man, the one that makes the dollar for them. We don’t ask for much, but it’s way too much for them.”

The company is trying to maintain some production with replacement workers, but most of the work is actually being done by supervisors, according to Teamsters Local 371 President Howard Spoon.

Nichols Aluminum did not return phone calls from the Militant.

Members of Teamsters locals from as far away as Chicago and Indianapolis came to show their support.

Also present were members of the United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, members of building trades unions, officials of the Iowa Federation of Labor and a member of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 48G, which fought a 10-month lockout by Roquette America in Keokuk, Iowa, in 2010-2011.

“We’re going to stay on this line as long as it takes. They’re hoping we’ll get weaker but we’re getting stronger,” Spoon said.

Chuck Guerra

Quebec City paper workers
approve concession contract

MONTREAL—Workers at the White Birch paper mill in Quebec City voted by 79 percent March 24 to accept major concessions.

The 600 members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union have been laid off since Dec. 9. At that time the workers put up picket lines and demanded the mill be reopened. On Jan. 12 the company announced it was closing the mill permanently. The previous day workers had voted down the company’s concession demands.

The concessions include a 10 percent cut in wages from $32 an hour to $28, and pension cuts of 30 percent for retirees and 55 percent for those still working. New hires would start at 70 percent of the regular rate and take more than two years to catch up.

Despite the vote accepting the concession demands, it is not yet clear when White Birch, which has declared bankruptcy, will reopen the mill. Workers at two other plants are also voting on the concession contracts.

“Unfortunately, these days it is only profits that count,” Jacques Renaud, a member of the union executive board, told the Militant.

—Joe Young

Athens airport workers protest
wage cuts, concessions

ATHENS, Greece—About 80 workers rallied at Athens International Airport March 29 protesting the airline companies’ concession proposals and contractors’ unilateral imposition of wage cuts.

“Using the new pro-employer laws passed by parliament, the airport bosses have not lost any time in lowering wages, pushing for four-hour flexible shifts, and firing senior workers and replacing them with younger workers,” Nikos Gourlas, president of the Union of Workers at the airport, told the rally. “Ground services contractors Swissport and Goldair are imposing wage cuts.”

“Our strike is no different from your fight,” said striking steelworker Panagiotis Dellis from Elliniki Halivourgia steel mill, where the union is fighting for a guaranteed workweek of 40 hours. Dellis noted that metal workers at the Perama shipyard recently “forced all the contractors to agree to hire only union labor under a union contract. This shows that even under these economic conditions we can win victories.”

“The fights at the airport, at Halivourgia and at Eleftherotypia are part of one struggle,” Moisis Litsis, a striking journalist from the daily Eleftherotypia, told the rally.

Georges Mehrabian

Related articles:
Quebec march backs fight against Rio Tinto lockout  
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