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Vol. 76/No. 25      June 25, 2012

On the Picket Line

Illinois bearing workers fight
for union recognition

MACOMB, Ill.—Workers at NTN-Bower Corporation, a manufacturer of bearings, will vote June 21-22 on whether to be represented by the United Steelworkers union.

“Seniority in the plant means nothing,” Greg Frakes, who works in the plant and supports the union, told the Militant.

“No matter how long I work I won’t have health care when I retire,” said Todd Mason, 36, a third generation employee at the plant. All pensions have been frozen and workers only have a 401(k) for their retirement option.

“The company has hired a union-busting outfit called LRI—Labor Relations Institute,” said union organizer Marc York.

Frakes and other workers said the company organizes compulsory weekly meetings where LRI presents antiunion videos and speeches.

Temporary workers in the plant make minimum wage. Some have worked as long as two years without being hired by the company. Those working directly for the company start production jobs at $9.99 an hour, and wages rise to $16.07 after two years.

NTN-Bower also has a bearings plant in Hamilton, Ala., which is organized by the United Auto Workers union.

The company has not responded to calls from the Militant for comment.

—Helen Meyers

Houston building cleaners
march for higher wages

HOUSTON—Chanting “No contract! We strike!” union janitors marched through downtown June 8, stopping to rally in front of large office buildings they clean.

“We are here rallying for a decent wage,” janitor Marisol Quintana told the Militant. “They don’t want to pay us a wage we can live on.”

Most janitors make less than $8 an hour and work fewer than 40 hours a week. They are seeking wages of $10 an hour. The Service Employees International Union Local 1, representing some 3,200 janitors, voted June 5 to authorize a strike.

“We are also here to demand Prichard Industries end the lockout of 11 workers at Greenway Plaza,” Maria Xiquin, an SEIU organizer, told the Militant. The 11 janitors were locked out after participating with nearly 100 workers in a one-day work stoppage June 5.

Contract negotiations with the cleaning companies for the big office buildings in Houston broke down when janitors’ contracts expired May 31.

—Jacquie Henderson

Calif. hotel workers strike for
‘benefits, wages, respect’

SAN JOSE, Calif.—“We can’t stay quiet! We have to let our demands be known,” said Gregorio Arce, one of some 250 hotel workers who went on strike June 4-7 at the Doubletree Hotel here.

Rosa López, a room cleaner at the hotel for 14 years, summed up what they are fighting for in three words: “Benefits, wages and respect.”

The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 19, told the Militant that wages here are below what is paid to hotel workers doing similar work in San Francisco. Yet over the past 11 months of negotiations the company has not budged from plans to impose higher health care costs and a wage freeze of four years for workers who receive tips and of 18 months for those who don’t.

All but a few workers at the hotel walked out. They were joined on the picket line by workers from other area hotels and members of UNITE HERE Local 2 from San Francisco. According to workers, services at the hotel, owned by the Hilton Corporation, were disrupted during the four-day strike, despite the bosses’ hiring of temporary replacement scabs.

Betsey Stone

Mass. nuclear workers locked out
after rejecting concession pact

PLYMOUTH, Mass.—Members of Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 put up picket lines at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant here June 6. The workers were locked out by plant owner Entergy Corp. after they voted down the latest contract offer. The company’s proposals would have increased workers’ health insurance costs by hundreds of dollars per month, far more than the 2 percent pay raise in the proposal. With approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy is running the plant with managers and contract workers hired in preparation for the lockout.

—Kevin Dwire and Sarah Ullman

Teamsters’ picket line solid
at Wash. Davis Wire strike

Members of Teamsters Local 117 on strike against Davis Wire Corp. are standing strong in Kent, Wash. Their picket lines are up 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Teamsters report that before the strike began May 21 bosses at the Kent plant recalled workers they had laid off. Only one recalled worker returned, for one day. “We talked to him and he came back out. He stood on the picket line with us today,” striker Hi Tang told the Militant June 7.

—Clay Dennison

Greece: striking steelworkers
face court and scabs

ATHENS, Greece—The government here has begun to move against 400 workers on strike against steelmaker Elliniki Halivourgia. On June 5, after seven and a half months on the picket line, an Athens court ruled the strike illegal. The court justified its decision with the bosses’ argument that the strike was called without a secret ballot or the statutory 24-hour advance notice to the company.

The steelworkers are fighting cuts to hours and wages and demanding the company reinstate more than 100 fired coworkers. Several days before the court’s ruling, workers conducted a secret ballot vote in which 204 voted to maintain the strike and 42 voted against.

“From early in the morning [June 6] the police chief had about 50 cops and riot police buses parked two kilometers [1.2 miles] from the gate,” said Sofia Roditi, wife of a striker and member of the workers’ Women’s Support Committee. “The strikebreakers we all know very well showed up at 8 a.m. They hurled curses and insults, hoping to provoke us into a scuffle so the cops could intervene.”

Meeting right after the court decision came down, the local union executive board issued a call to rally around the strikers and push back “the hired strikebreaking apparatus of the company and its attempts to provoke and slander our struggle.”

The pickets stood firm thanks to the solidarity and physical presence of supporters, as the defense of the picket swelled to about 1,000 people, Roditi said. “Thanks to this solidarity we are able to keep standing out here and demand justice.”

—Maria Plessa and Natasha Terlexis

Related articles:
‘Our strike is strong’ say Texas Machinists
Reject Lockheed’s concession demands
Steelworkers ‘won’t give up’ in Rio Tinto lockout fight
Mining giant charged with 2 workers’ deaths in Canada
Solidarity boosts spirit of Caterpillar strikers
Construction workers protest in Iran  
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