The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 37      October 20, 2014

On the Picket Line

Autoworkers in Indiana push back two-tier wages

HAMMOND, Ind. — More than 700 members of United Auto Workers Local 2335 walked off the job at the Lear Corp. plant here Sept. 13 after working without a contract since Aug. 4, demanding a single pay scale for all permanent workers and a wage increase. The next day Lear agreed to the key demands and workers approved the new contract.

Wages for 200 assembly workers hired after 2009 will increase to $21.58 by the end of the four-year agreement, the same pay as long-time employees.

“We gained a little economically, but really it was about unity,” Arthur Irving, who is in the lower wage-tier, told the Militant. “We were never going to get what the first tier got if things had stayed the way they were.” After two and a half years, Irving was making $14 per hour.

“Temporary” and subcontracted workers received pay increases as well.

“The company still has some jobs contracted out. Preassembly inspection and stocking is done by temporary workers who work for CSG,” said Lear worker Trahern McGree.

UAW officials agreed to reclassify 120 of the lower-tier workers as subassembly workers, who will be moved to a nearby factory. They will be paid a top rate of $15.25 by the end of the contract. New hires there will start at $12 an hour.

UAW Local 2335 President Jaime Luna told Automotive News that the wages of another group of 170 temporary workers would rise from $8.50 to $11 per hour immediately.

All 300 subassembly workers will have first dibs on transferring to the higher-wage seat-assembly plant when jobs open, the UAW said.

“Unfortunately we are not in the union,” CSG worker Gavin Terrelong told the Militant. “But I think it was good that they went out and got rid of the two-tier set-up. It divided the workforce and weakened the union.”

Next year the UAW will begin negotiations with the Big Three — Chrysler, General Motors and Ford — where 25 percent of nearly 130,000 workers make just over half the $28 an hour wage of workers in the first tier. The UAW conceded to the two-tier scale in 2007.

— Alyson Kennedy

San Francisco ferry captains strike to block insurance cost hike

LARKSPUR, Calif. — No ferries ran from here or Sausalito to San Francisco Sept. 26 when 16 ferry captains struck the Golden Gate Ferry. The ferries carry some 9,000 commuters daily. The special ferry service to the Giants baseball game didn’t run either, canceling 1,400 trips.

The captains are members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, which is part of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, 13 unions that are negotiating with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. They have been working without a contract since July 1. Mechanics, members of the International Association of Machinists, struck for a day 10 days earlier in a spirited protest that did not affect traffic. The captains’ strike took the fight up a notch.

“Like many of my co-workers, going on strike tomorrow is the last thing we want to do,” captain Rob Barley said at a press conference announcing the strike. “However, the district, in its continuing failure to negotiate with us in good faith, has left us with little choice. “

A key issue is the attempt by the Golden Gate Bridge District to downgrade health insurance coverage and charge workers higher premiums. The district also insists on adding a “bronze plan” to health care options, which could cost a worker up to $12,000 per year out-of-pocket.

The captains want higher pay for a new program to train deckhands to be captains, according to the labor coalition.

Teamsters, electricians, ironworkers, ticket agents and machinists joined the captains and the deckhands on the picket line, and many drivers passing by honked their horns.

“The union has been fighting for many years to keep a decent health plan,” deckhand Mike Carnduff, a member of the Inland Boatman’s Union, said on the picket line. “We had what they called a Cadillac plan, but now they are asking us to pay more. We are holding the line here because once they take something away it’s hard to get it back.”

A dozen bus drivers in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1575 called in sick the same day, causing delays and cancellations in service across the Golden Gate Bridge. Ray Messier, the local’s president, denied there was an organized “sick-out.” No drivers crossed the picket line into the Larkspur ferry terminal, however, Messier told the San Francisco Chronicle. Instead they dropped off riders a short distance away to show solidarity with the captains.

— Eric Simpson

Nurses at Pennsylvania hospital fight long hours, short staffing

UPLAND, Penn. — Several hundred nurses, retirees and other union members rallied here Sept. 22 outside Crozer-Chester Hospital, during a 48-hour strike Sept. 21-23 against long hours, short staffing and equipment and supply shortages.

The nurses, organized by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, have been working without a contract since June 8.

“We need staff and equipment: fix the equipment that’s broken,” said Don Webb, an emergency room staffer. “And auxiliary help from technicians and paramedics.” Andrew Gaffney, a union representative, said no union members had crossed the picket line.

Strikers said they work 12-hour shifts that often extend to 13 or 14 hours without a break, and that they sometimes chip in for cab fare home for patients who are released since the company no longer provides it.

The hospital hired U.S. Nursing Corporation, a strikebreaking outfit from Colorado, to take the jobs of the union members for five days, locking out the nurses until Sept. 26.

— George Chalmers

Protest demands CNN honor ruling to reinstate fired workers

NEW YORK — Forty-five members and supporters of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians/Communications Workers of America held a lively picket at the entrance to CNN Studios at rush hour here Sept. 26. They were demanding CNN reinstate 113 workers fired by the media giant 10 years ago in a union-busting move.

In December 2003, CNN terminated its longstanding contract with Team Video Services, a firm that had employed NABET/CWA-represented workers in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The CWA called the move a “phony reorganization scheme to get rid of unionized workers.”

The National Labor Relations Board Sept. 15 ordered CNN to return the workers to their jobs within 14 days and pay them back wages, as well as compensate nearly 200 others who continued to work for the company without the benefit of union representation. CNN has appealed the decision. Some of the unionists are no longer alive.

“I came to show solidarity with these workers,” said Sarrah Nasser, a worker at AT&T and a shop steward of CWA Local 1101. “This fight sets an example. Ten years back pay is the biggest payment ordered by the NLRB ever.”

Carrie Biggs-Adams, a NABET staff representative from Washington, D.C., announced at the rally that 25 workers had picketed CNN’s offices there earlier in the day, and that picketing would continue in Washington every Wednesday for the duration of the fight.

— Jacob Perasso

British Columbia teachers end three-month strike

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — After their longest strike ever, British Columbia teachers voted 86 percent Sept. 18 to accept a contract approved by their negotiators. The biggest issue in the strike — class size and composition (the number of special needs students in each class) — has been in dispute for 12 years and remains unresolved. The 41,000 teachers began their strike in mid-June, ending the last school year two weeks early and delaying the start of the new one by three weeks.

In 2002 the provincial government unilaterally removed class size and composition from collective bargaining. The teachers’ union challenged the decision, but despite two court rulings in the teachers’ favor, the government has refused to accede.

The teachers will receive a wage increase of 7.25 percent over the six years of the agreement, less than the rate of inflation.

About $400 million will be allocated for hiring more teachers. Tara Ehrcke, a past president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, told the Vancouver Sun this would translate into just five or 10 more teachers in her district with its 20,000 students and 1,000 teachers.

Patrick Martin, an elementary teacher from Vancouver Island, spoke to the Militant about “the need for special education teachers. I don’t think anything was gained on that or the main issue of class size and composition.” Reflecting the view of many teachers, Ebru Montagano, a teacher at Bayview Elementary School in Vancouver, told the Sun on the day of the vote, “It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for now.”

Joe Young and Steve Penner

Send in your On the Picket Line items, suggestions, or questions to Maggie Trowe at the Militant by postal mail, email or phone: 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018;; or 212-244-4899.
Related articles:
Steelworkers in Illinois fight Honeywell union busting
Build Oct. 11 solidarity rally in Metropolis
Nebraskans for Peace discuss farmers, labor, climate change
Fight to free Cuban 5 wins support at Neb. conference
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home