NY Remington workers march for severance pay, new jobs

By Ved Dookhun
December 21, 2020

ILION, N.Y. — Some 30 people participated in an informational picket here Dec. 5 to show support for United Mine Workers Local 717 members demanding Remington Outdoor Co. honor their union contract. Remington bosses filed for bankruptcy in July, terminated 585 workers in October, and cut off their health care and access to other benefits. They also refused to give severance and accrued vacation pay. Local 717 has held rallies twice a week here since the layoffs, and plans to continue.

The company has run the plant since 1828. In bankruptcy it sold off its brands of shotguns, rifles and ammunition to seven different buyers. It sold the plant to Roundhill Group, whose boss says he wants to refit it to build guns sometime in the future. The union says it wants jobs and a union contract when the plant reopens. There are few other industrial employers in Ilion, a village of 8,000.

“We will not back down,” Jacquie Sweeney, recording secretary of UMW Local 717, said as she welcomed people to the march.

She announced that members of the New York State United Teachers union were holding a solidarity picket at the same time in New Hartford. The UMW has encouraged unions to organize informational pickets throughout the area. Sweeney also welcomed a delegation of five Albany Medical Center nurses who came in solidarity after organizing their own strike earlier in the week.

Lenore Granich, a leader of the nurses fight at Albany Med and a member of the New York State Nurses Association, described how they went on strike for more staff, safety and higher pay.

“We are here to give you support and to let you know that we stand with you shoulder to shoulder,” she said. “It might seem like it’s David vs. Goliath, but in unity there is strength.”

“Remington has got to do right by you,” Granich said.

Five Remington workers had joined in a press conference and rally called by Albany Med nurses a week earlier. “We know what the fight is like. Little by little they are waking a sleeping giant. We support your right to a contract,” Sweeney told the nurses when she spoke at their rally.

At an earlier rally Nov. 10, Remington workers in Ilion were supported by local unions, including the Teamsters, Carpenters, Building Trades, Plumbers and the Laborers. UMW national President Cecil Roberts addressed the rally. “If you are prepared to fight, the UMW will be beside you,” he said.

“We are getting a lot of support. They may seem like small things to some, but they’re big to us. I’ve been involved in the union for five years, but this is the most union I’ve ever felt,” Sweeney told the Militant. “So many people in the community are behind us.”

Solidarity picket lines

Teachers in Rome, New York, organized their own informational picket Dec. 5 to let people know about the Remington workers’ fight, Sweeney said, and that protest gave the unionists the idea of calling on other workers to organize informational actions about the Remington fight in their own areas.

“What we want is our jobs back and what we are owed,” Sweeney said. “And we don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Solidarity is important in this struggle. The Central New York Labor Council organized with Garelick Farms to donate 300 gallons of milk.

Join in building solidarity. Organize your union to hold informational activity. Send checks and donations to UMW Local 717, 49 1st Street, Ilion, NY 13357.