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Vol. 78/No. 46      December 22, 2014

On the Picket Line

Help make this column a voice of workers’ resistance!

This column is dedicated to spreading the truth about the labor resistance that is unfolding today. It seeks to give voice to those engaged in battle and help build solidarity. Its success depends on input from readers. If you are involved in a labor struggle or have information on one, please contact me at 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018; or 212-244-4899; or We’ll work together to ensure your story is told.

— Maggie Trowe

Locked-out uranium workers in Illinois win support

Locked-out Honeywell uranium conversion workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 7-669 in Metropolis, Illinois, are exposing the company’s disdain for safety as they win support and solidarity from other unionists.

The union called attention to the six-minute release of toxic uranium hexafluoride gas from the plant into surrounding areas that was observed by pickets Oct. 26 and demanded an investigation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Honeywell initially said the gas release never left its property but later reversed its stance. The commission announced Nov. 6 that Honeywell officials should have reported the gas emission as an emergency “alert” classification.

Honeywell management, which has been operating the plant with strikebreakers since it locked out union workers Aug. 2, announced Nov. 20 the plant would be shut for the first quarter of 2015 for maintenance.

“The shutdown announcement and Honeywell’s reversal on the UF6 release show what a big deal that event was,” local President Stephen Lech said in a phone interview. The union is maintaining picket lines and filed unfair labor practice charges against the company Nov. 10.

“We’re planning to visit a number of Steelworkers locals between now and the end of the year,” he said.

Members of Women of Steel from several Steelworkers locals in northwest Indiana delivered two vanloads of food and are raising funds to buy toys and door prizes to bring to the locked-out workers’ Christmas party Dec. 13.

“We encourage anyone who wants to back our fight to attend,” Lech said.

John Hawkins

Housekeepers at Harvard-owned hotel strike for unionization

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Housekeepers at the DoubleTree Hotel in nearby Allston, who have been trying for more than a year to win representation by UNITE HERE Local 26, organized a one-day strike Nov. 20. That evening some 700 students, unionists and others rallied on the Harvard University campus here to support them. Harvard owns the Hilton-operated hotel and made a $22.6 million profit from it in 2012.

The housekeepers, who have to prepare 14 two-room suites per shift, carried out their action under the slogan “No More Pain!” Harvard food service workers, members of Local 26, earn $21.73 per hour. DoubleTree housekeepers were paid $15 per hour until they began their unionizing effort last year, which spurred the bosses to increase their pay to $18. Unionized hotel workers in Boston make more and clean half the number of rooms.

“It’s not fair that they won’t listen to us,” housekeeper Sandra Hernandez said at the rally. “Harvard is the richest university in the world.” Local 26 organized teams of strikers, students and supporters throughout the day to pass out fliers and collect 3,000 signatures on cards backing the workers’ fight. Harvard students and university employees joined strikers as they visited the campus dining halls during lunch.

The next morning Local 26 members and some Harvard students accompanied housekeepers as they returned to work to make sure that hotel management did not retaliate.

— Kevin Dwire

Brooklyn gas workers push back concessions

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Members of Transport Workers Union Local 101 overwhelmingly approved a contract with National Grid gas company Nov 11.

Hundreds of unionists and supporters rallied Oct. 9 in front of the company’s downtown building here against bosses’ demands for a wage freeze and increased health care costs. Four days later the unionists voted to authorize a strike. An agreement was reached Oct. 14 that included a wage increase of 14.25 percent over five years and elimination of the temporary worker classification.

Claude Ross, a heavy equipment operator, coming out of the contract vote meeting, said what was presented seemed fine. “But, it’s too soon. We don’t really know what they took away.”

“Overall I’m happy with it,” Greg Bimbiras, a shop steward, said.

Johnny Woo and Jae Woo, father and son, both were happy with the contract. “I didn’t think we’d get a good contract,” Johnny Woo said. “But the union is strong. The fellows stayed together.”

— Candace Wagner

Rally in Brooklyn backs locked-out ‘carwasheros’
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Several dozen unionists, community activists and family members rallied Nov. 22 in support of nine locked-out car wash workers at Vegas Auto Spa here, who have been organizing to win union recognition with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and back wages owed for overtime work paid at the straight-time rate.

The Nov. 19 lockout by owner Marat Leshehinsky came as a surprise to the workers, who call themselves “carwasheros.”

“He never said anything,” Juan Calel told the Militant. “We came in the morning and he said it was closed.”

Calel said workers at the car wash had started talking to each other some months ago about poor wages and conditions. “There’s no safety, there’s lots of chemicals and no protection — no gloves, no masks, no safety glasses,” said Angel Revoledo.

Vegas Auto Spa attorney Stephen Hans told the New York Daily News that the union is using pressure tactics against a mom-and-pop operation. “That’s a lie,” Calel responded. “He owns another car wash, a rim shop, and has apartments.”

— Tony Lane

Texas aerospace workers end one-month strike

HOUSTON — Striking Teamster members at the Zodiac Seats US plant in Gainesville, Texas, voted Oct. 25 to approve a new contract and end a strike that began Sept. 23. More than 1,000 workers produce airplane seats there.

The issues in the strike were work environment, seniority rights and schedules, Terry Johnson, Teamster Local 767 vice president, told KTEN-TV. The company proposed 10- or 12-hour shifts with no overtime pay.

“The biggest issue was seniority,” Johnson told the Militant in a phone interview. “The company wanted to be able to move any worker to any location without regards to seniority, and if you made four mistakes in a year you were terminated. It was a way to get rid of people, but the company didn’t win that.”

— Deborah Liatos

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Turkish miners fight for wages, job safety
Massey Energy boss indicted in 2010 W.Va. coal mine blast
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