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Vol. 76/No. 22      June 4, 2012

On the Picket Line

Georgia Teamsters rally
for union contract

LITHONIA, Ga.—Some 35 members and supporters of Teamsters Local 527-S picketed and rallied here for several hours May 14 in front of the Greif Brothers packaging plant.

Seventy-five workers have been without a contract for almost two years. They have not had a wage increase in more than two years, according to a union flyer handed out at the rally.

“Greif must start negotiating in good faith or face the consequences,” said the flyer.

“They’ve also been cutting our time. We’ve been working three and a half or four days a week and have to use our vacation time just to make ends meet,” Adrian Russell, 33, a machine operator at the plant for six years, told the Militant. Another worker added that they are expected to produce the same amount as they did in five days. The workers manufacture large fibre drums for industrial packaging.

“We all need to stick together,” said Local 527-S President Ralph Meers. “If this company gets away with this, others will do the same.”

The company also wants to charge higher deductibles and co-pays for health care and wants to be able to change the insurance plan and raise costs giving only 30 days notice, the union flyer said. Workers also oppose the company’s attendance policy, which has been used to fire union activists.

The company has not returned phone calls from the Militant requesting comment.

After several hours, the plant manager came out of the plant. Workers repeatedly shouted, “Come to the table. Come to the table.” The Teamsters just happened to have a table and chairs inside their semitruck parked across the street. They brought them out and the plant manager sat down as the workers’ laid out their grievances. No agreement has yet been reached.

Janice Lynn

NY: Chemical workers reject
concessions, strike TRW plant

AUBURN, N.Y.—“Either we fight back or run away,” Cristine Harmon, a member of International Chemical Workers Union Local 192-C, told the Militant on a Mother’s Day picket line in front of the TRW plant here. “They want temps in here to drive the wages down and they want to reduce overtime.”

The union walked out when their contract expired May 8. On May 10 workers rejected the company’s concession demands a second time, by a vote of 128 to 11.

Greg Large, the union local president, explained that the rejected contract proposed that 20 percent of the workforce be temporary workers. It would also change the work schedule from five eight-hour days with Saturday overtime to two 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday and two 12-hour shifts Friday through Sunday, which would eliminate most overtime.

Striker Laura Agley explained that three years ago the company said they were in financial trouble and the union took deep concessions, giving up 93 cents an hour, three vacation days, and holiday and shift differential. “We’ve seen how the company benefited from our cuts. We got angry,” she said. “They’ve kicked this dog enough and now it will bite back.”

TRW employs 60,000 people in about 185 major facilities around the world. The plant here produces electronic tire pressure monitors and keyless car entry devices. In 2011 the company reported record sales of $16.2 billion.

Dennis Walowsky used to be a TRW employee and his wife Amy still is. She has 40 years in. “The community backs the strike,” Dennis told the Militant. “The proposed new work shifts don’t allow a life. What my wife brings home today is less than 10 years ago. All we see is cuts, cuts, and cuts.”

Some of the strikers told of scheduled negotiating sessions where company representatives just do not show up, or come, stay for a few minutes and then leave without even informing the union if they will return.

Company spokesperson John Wilkerson told the Militant May 21 that he would not comment on the negotiations except to say they would resume the following day.

“They’re not going to threaten me any more,” Harmon said. “If we lose our jobs, maybe they’ll lose theirs too!” Agley agreed. She said a supervisor had told her they could move this plant to TRW’s facility in Marshall, Mich., a nonunion plant where workers are paid $17 an hour. She responded, “Go ahead! That doesn’t scare me!”

—Dan Fein and Ruth Robinett

Related articles:
‘Company will lose– we are not giving in’
Teamsters strike Coca-Cola in Connecticut
4th NY construction worker killed on job in 2012
‘Interns’ file suit against unpaid labor  
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