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Vol. 77/No. 23      June 17, 2013

On the Picket Line  

Hospital workers strike in Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO — Picket lines went up outside University of California hospitals throughout the state May 21-22 in a two-day strike against staffing reductions, cuts in retirement plans and other contract demands.

“There’s no question we needed to strike,” said Oscar Cedillos, one of hundreds of workers at the picket line outside the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

Cedillo, who has worked for 11 years as a janitor at the complex, pointed to the hospital’s expansion of temporary and part-time work as a key issue. Strike demands include limiting the use of contractors and a way for part-time workers to become full-time.

The striking workers, members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, included respiratory therapists, nursing aides, lab technicians, radiologists and others. They were joined on the picket lines by members of the University Professional and Technical Employees union as well as workers in the UC Hospital Service Unit, who walked out in solidarity with their fight.

Local 3299, which has some 13,000 members, has been in negotiations since June 2012 over a new contract.

Workers on the picket line told the Militant that recent layoffs at the hospital have led to understaffing that threatens patient safety. Strike demands include setting up “safe staffing committees” that would give workers a say in staff-to-patient ratios.

During the same week as the strike at UC hospitals, nurses and technicians carried out a seven-day strike at Sutter hospitals in Oakland and nearby cities. It was the ninth walkout of members of the California Nurses Association at Sutter in the last two years.

“This has been a tough battle,” said Pat Jackson, a nurse with almost 30 years experience, as she walked the picket line at the giant Sutter complex at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland. “Sutter has a lot of resources they are using against us. With what we are facing today, our unions have to be strong.”

Coinciding with the final day of the walkout at Sutter, members of the California Nurses Association in San Jose carried out a two-day strike May 23-24 at Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center.

—Betsey Stone

San Francisco Giants concession workers fight for pay raise
SAN FRANCISCO — Chanting “Enjoy the game, don’t eat the food,” 750 members of UNITE HERE Local 2 picketed the baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park here May 25 as part of a one-day strike.

“A 25 cents an hour raise is an insult,” said Bruce Sylvester, a porter with 16 years on the job, in reference to the wage offer from Centerplate, the San Francisco Giant’s concessions company. The workers haven’t had a raise since March 2010 when the last contract expired, according to

Many fans expressed support for the pickets. “Beer sells for $5.50 a glass. Surely, they can give some of the profits to the workers,” said Mary Smith as she took a leaflet.

—Jeff Powers

Australia coal loaders protest attacks by port bosses
NEWCASTLE, Australia — Some 225 coal loaders at Port Waratah Coal Services here struck for 24 hours May 29-30 as part of a campaign of work stoppages and other actions to protest the port bosses’ push for a contract targeting permanent jobs and union conditions.

Workers gathered outside the gates of the Port Waratah terminals at Carrington and Kooragang May 29 as they came off the job. At Carrington, they were greeted by dozens of fellow unionists and port workers, including tugboat and other seamen also organized by the Maritime Union of Australia, a major union in the dispute.

Bosses are pushing for greater “flexibility” in work hours and the use of outside contract labor, as well as to end court arbitration in resolving disputes between workers and the bosses.

The Maritime Union of Australia, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Transport Workers’ Union, and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union have been the main unions in joint negotiations with Port Waratah over the past nine months.

Ben Newman, an AMWU delegate on the joint Single Bargaining Unit negotiating with Port Waratah, told the Militant that the main sticking point has been around workers’ input in work rosters and other job conditions, including safety issues.

“This is heavy industry where an accident is not a cut but a crushed arm or potentially a fatality,” Newman said.

“Both sides would like to resolve the dispute,” Port Waratah spokesperson Paul Chamberlin told the Militant May 30. He said he couldn’t comment on the substance of the negotiations.

The Newcastle facilities are the largest and most efficient thermal coal loading service in the world, according to the website of Port Waratah Coal Services.

Thermal coal prices have fallen about 30 percent from their peak two years ago, as supply has overtaken demand on global markets. The Australian Coal Association says about 9,000 jobs have been cut in the last 15 months from an industry that directly employs about 50,000. Mining companies are continuing to fill export contracts from mine stockpiles while cutting production.

— Ron Poulsen

Peugeot workers end 4-month strike in France
PARIS — Workers at the Peugeot Aulnay plant here voted May 17 to approve an agreement and end their strike. According to the daily newspaper Figaro, “both the unions and management made concessions.”

Peugeot announced a year ago its intentions to close the auto assembly plant of 2,800 in 2014. On Jan. 16, 520 workers struck, demanding a job for all those laid off and early retirement at age 55. Production was crippled. According to the CGT, the main union involved, Peugeot currently has a backlog of 14,000 orders. After four months, 210 workers remained on strike.

The agreement provides for an end to disciplinary actions against former strikers and allows those who accept transfers to another plant to choose where. It also provides substantial one-time payments for workers who resign.

Workers organized frequent protest actions during the strike, including demonstrations inside Peugeot and other car factories, protests at appearances of government ministers and a sit-in at the headquarters of the bosses’ federation. They often outmaneuvered CRS riot police, turning up in one place while hundreds of cops waited for them elsewhere.

Some 850,000 euros ($654,800) were raised from unions, workplaces, labor actions and other sources, Jean-Pierre Mercier, CGT representative at Aulnay, told the Militant. Several times strikers took over highway tollbooths, letting cars through for free and collecting voluntary contributions for the strike.

“For four months, hundreds of workers have succeeded in preventing a victory by the Peugeot bosses, whose main stockholder, the Peugeot family, is one of the richest and most powerful in France,” said a May 17 statement from the strikers’ general assembly. “Against them, strikers also faced the government, which fully supported the Peugeot family and its shareholders and which mobilized the government’s resources against the strike.”

Peugeot announced May 22 that it would begin national discussions with unions on May 29 to establish “a new social contract” — code for attacks on wages and work conditions, similar to the agreement put together by Renault two months ago.

—Derek Jeffers and Jacques Salfati, workers at Peugeot’s plant in Poissy

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