After one week on strike 110 workers, members of the General Workers Federation, at Cadillac Uniform & Linen Supply Inc., in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, won a wage increase and better working conditions. Most workers there were earning the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour and had not had a raise in 15 years.
When the company pulled out of negotiations, they voted to go on strike Aug. 26 and began picketing the plant, shutting down production. The plant manufactures uniforms and also cleans linen from hospitals.
“They are exploiting us,” striker Dianissa Resto, 40, told the press. “Eighty percent of us are women who they force to work long hours.”
Cadillac owners won a court injunction, ordering workers to stop blocking the entrances. But the workers ignored the order, winning solidarity from other workers and all the main union federations on the island.
On Sept. 2 Cadillac caved in and offered the workers a three-year contract. It includes a wage increase that will bring the lowest paid workers to $8.90 an hour at the end of three years and gave all workers the same number of sick and vacation days.
Outside the plant, workers cheered when they learned that layoffs and work assignments would now be based on seniority, that workers who handle contaminated laundry would receive paid vaccinations, that workers fired for supporting the union would be back on the job, and that all disciplinary warnings had been erased.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted,” CGT Organization Secretary Scott Barbés told the Militant by phone Sept. 13. “But we showed that in the midst of the economic crisis and colonial rule we can use our unions to fight and if we fight we can win.”