On the picket line

By on August 22, 2014

Kellogg ordered to end lockout

On July 30, a federal judge ordered Kellogg to end its union-busting lockout of 226 workers at its Memphis cereal plant, reinstate their jobs by Aug. 4 and bargain with Bakery union (BCTGM) Local 252G in good faith. Kellogg locked the workers out on Oct. 22 because they refused changes in wage rates and benefits in the Master Contract signed in 2012, which runs through October 2015. So BCTGM filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

By instituting the lockout, the $14 billion company was trying to bully full-time workers to accept part-time status at greatly reduced pay. If it could get away with this strong-arm tactic in Memphis, the union knew it would impose such drastic cutbacks at its other plants in Omaha, Neb.; Battle Creek, Mich.; and Lancaster, Pa. Even though the workers and their families suffered for nine long months without pay and health benefits, they fought back on defiant picket lines at the plant and boldly confronted Kellogg at a rally outside the April shareholders’ meeting in Battle Creek. May this ruling be a stinging rebuke to CEOs planning to follow in Kellogg’s lockout footsteps. (aflcio.blog.org, July 31)

Tentative deal in Northwest grain lockout

A tentative contract covering Pacific Northwest grain terminals — and potentially ending the nearly 18-month lockout of grain workers by Mitsui-United Grain in Vancouver, Wash. — was reached Aug. 11 by the Longshore and Warehouse Union and grain terminal operators. Both the looming grain harvest and the withdrawal of Washington state escorts for grain inspectors helped to speed contract talks. Terms will not be made public until ILWU members have a chance to vote on the agreement, which covers MUG in Vancouver, Marubeni-Columbia Grain in Portland and Louis Dreyfus in Portland and Seattle. (The Stand, Aug. 13)

Call for solidarity: boycott IKEA

More than 350 workers at the IKEA store in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, represented by Teamsters Local 213, have been locked out for 13 months. Swedish-owned furniture multinational IKEA, which had record profits in 2013, is trying to impose a two-tier wage system and seriously weaken benefits at its North American flagship store. If successful, that would set standards for ten unorganized IKEA stores in Canada; Montreal has the only other unionized workforce. The lack of hours and consistent work schedules for 240 part-time workers, as well as management bullying, a sharp increase in grievances and management interference with union representatives are serious problems at the store. The locked-out workers at IKEA Richmond are now calling for a boycott in Canada. (The Bullet, socialistproject.ca, June 17)

Let’s show solidarity and extend the boycott throughout North America — especially since the Machinists (IAM) union and the Teamsters are actively involved in organizing workers in IKEA distribution centers and plants in the U.S.

Maryland drivers join National Taxi Workers Alliance

The newly formed Montgomery County Professional Drivers Union, which covers more than 800 taxi drivers in and around Washington, D.C., received an organizing charter from the National Taxi Workers Alliance on July 31. “The overwhelming majority of workers in this industry are immigrants, exploited and disenfranchised, told that [they] have no rights,” said NTWA President Bhairavi Desai, “but that changes now, not just in Montgomery County but throughout this region, which is such a critical place because it’s the capital.” MCPDU President Peter Ibik observed that already the workers have noticed a big change in how they are treated because of their affiliation with the NTWA and AFL-CIO. Due to their status as independent contractors, the drivers are not protected by any wage, hour or worker compensation laws and have no health insurance, disability insurance or any form of retirement benefits. On with the union drive! (dclabor.org, Aug. 1)

More unionized carwashes in L.A.

When 133 newly unionized carwasheros in Los Angeles joined United Steelworkers Local 675 in May, it made Los Angeles, with more than a dozen union carwashes, the leader in this national union drive. Owners have signed contracts that comply with all labor, health and safety regulations and give their workers, mostly Latino/a immigrants, a 2 percent raise. Workers are now able to enforce working standards through a grievance procedure. A 2008 study conducted by the L.A. Times showed that underpaying workers, hiring minors, operating without workers’ compensation insurance, and denying workers meal and rest breaks were common illegal practices in this industry. Local 675 is now showing the way for the rest of the country. (aflcio.blog.org, May 7)

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