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Vol. 78/No. 38      October 27, 2014

Uranium workers win
solidarity in lockout fight
(front page)
METROPOLIS, Ill. — “Stand up! Fightback!” and “We don’t have a contract. Shut it down!” chanted hundreds of workers as they marched down a main street here on Saturday, Oct. 11.

Members of the United Steelworkers and other unionists came to this town of 6,500 in southern Illinois for a march and rally to support members of Steelworkers Local 7-669, who have been locked out by Honeywell at the company’s uranium conversion facility here since they voted Aug. 1 to reject the bosses’ union-busting contract. Participants came from towns and cities in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kentucky.

“We are not going to win this contract by talk,” Stephen Lech, president of United Steelworkers Local 7-669, told the crowd of more than 300 people. “We got unprecedented support in the last lockout. That’s what it is going to take now. Honeywell tried to destroy the union in 2011 and we survived. What the company is proposing would chop the knees out of our local and make a home for subcontractors.”

When Local 7-669 refused to accept a union-busting contract in June 2010 they were locked out for 14 months. The uranium workers organized solidarity rallies and reached out to other workers engaged in strikes and lockout battles, and returned to work in August 2011, having beat back most of the bosses’ concession demands and without one worker crossing the picket line.

Honeywell bosses want to contract out 100 jobs, which would leave only 44 union jobs. “The company has said they also want 28 maintenance jobs for us to go back to work,” said Lech. “We told them that these jobs are not for sale.”

“Honeywell is not interested in negotiating or talking. We have to take action,” Carol Landry, Steelworkers international vice president at-large, told the rally.

“I got a long ride from Skokie because I wanted to be here with you guys because I think we are part of the same fight,” Augusto Rafusto, a member of Teamsters Local 705, said at the rally. Local 705 members are on strike against Golan’s Moving and Storage in Skokie, Illinois, about 380 miles from here.

“We have been on strike since July 28,” said Rafusto. “We work for an employer that does not treat us well. We break our backs, legs and arms and there is no medical coverage, nothing. I invite you to come walk the picket line in Skokie. … Workers at Honeywell you will win.”

A contingent of seven people came from Keokuk, Iowa, including four members of the Steelworkers and a member of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

Members of BCTGM Local 48G who work for Roquette America were also locked out in 2010-11. “We found out about the Steelworkers’ lockout on Facebook and invited them to our rally,” said Buddy Howard, who was part of the fight against Roquette America. “They came and we went to their rallies too.”

“When workers need help we’ll come running,” said Tim Wilson, a member of Steelworkers Local 3311 who works at Keokuk Steel Castings.

Other speakers included Steelworkers District Director Mike Millsap; Mayor Billy McDaniel; Eric Thorsland, Democratic Party candidate for 15th Congressional District in Illinois; Rachel Spence, a locked-out Honeywell worker; and Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO.

“I came today because I have always been strong union,” Arvella Swayne a member of Steelworkers Local 1011 and a crane operator at Arcelor Mittal steel mill in northwest Indiana, told the Militant. “Benefits, wages all of those things are because of the union. Unity and solidarity are important today.”

“We keep the picket lines up 24/7,” said Richard Mumford, a locked-out member of Local 7-669. “After we went back to work in 2011, they walked everyone out of the plant one day charging that we sabotaged the plant. I was then laid off for another nine months. When we went back, anyone who made the slightest mistake got fired.”

In a grassy area by the road in front of the plant, the workers have placed 83 white hard hats to stand for the jobs lost during the 2010-11 lockout and 100 blue hard hats for the additional union jobs that are now on the chopping block.
Related articles:
On the Picket Line
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