On the Picket Line

Autoworkers strike Prysmian plant in Texas over pay, hours

By Alyson Kennedy
May 10, 2021

SCOTTSVILLE, Texas — “Strike until it’s right!” members of United Auto Workers Local 3057 chant on the picket line in front of the gate of Prysmian Group in East Texas. Over 200 UAW members went on strike March 26 after 98% voted to reject an insulting contract the bosses tried to push on them.

“This is our first strike,” Local President Chris Hodge told this Militant worker-correspondent on the picket line April 8. “They don’t take into consideration that we are human. If we don’t stand up now this won’t be a decent job for the generations to come.

“Negotiations began a year ago before the beginning of COVID-19,” he said. “But when the pandemic began the union offered to extend the contract a year.”

Earl Roberts, the local chairman, told the Marshall News Messenger that when negotiations started again about six weeks ago, the company initially offered to raise wages by just a nickel while increasing the cost of workers’ health and other benefits.

Prysmian Group, an Italian company that makes cables for power lines and telecommunication systems, bought the plant two years ago. “They took away most of the holidays. This year they wanted us to work Christmas, but we said no,” Hodge said. “If we don’t stand up now we will continue to face unsafe conditions.

“We work 12-hour shifts. If you get seven points in a year, then you’re terminated. They have a zero-tolerance attendance policy,” he explained. “They regularly force you to work overtime and if you call off you get two points.”

Gordon Thomas has worked in the plant for 11 years. “This is the worst it has ever been. The main issue is the working conditions. You can only refuse overtime five times a year,” said Thomas. “They schedule us to work overtime if they think some people won’t show up. During the snow and ice storm they wouldn’t cancel work until 30 minutes before the shift. We have to beg for a day off.”

“We have a lot of support. Several locals sent donations and letters,” Hodge told me in a phone interview, adding that some UAW locals in the Dallas area, including UAW Local 276 from the big General Motors plant in Arlington, sent a bus full of unionists to show solidarity April 12. “They walked the picket line for almost six hours. Retired unionists from Shreveport, Louisiana, visited us.” Nearby cafes and restaurants bring lunch to the pickets.

Forklift driver Martevia Clough told us, “I started last September. You are supposed to get a raise after probation, but I’m still getting training pay of $14.33 an hour.”

Anita Copeland said, “I started a year and a half ago. I was the only woman working on the shipping dock with 12 men, but I was treated with respect. I make $18.25 an hour. Everyone here is fighting for more wages. Pinching pennies isn’t working.

“I was all for the strike,” she said. “I will fight this to the end.”

The pickets are up 24/7, join them if you can! Messages and contributions can be sent to UAW Local 3057, 607 Martha St., Marshall, TX 75670.