On the picket line

Locked-out sugar beet workers vote ‘no contract’

Even after a 10-month lockout, 63 percent of the sugar beet workers represented by Bakery and Confectionery union (BCTWGM) Local 167G voted no on June 23 to a “final offer” contract that would double their out-of-pocket health care costs and end seniority rights. The workers rejected the same offer from the country’s largest beet sugar producer, American Crystal Sugar, by 96 percent on July 31, 2011, and by 90 percent on Nov. 1, 2011. Even though the lockout has imposed huge sacrifices on the 1,300 workers and their families at three plants in Minnesota and two mills in North Dakota, Local 167G head John Riskey says the workers are determined “to get a fair contract.” With Crystal Sugar hiring temporary replacement workers (scabs), its production costs shot up to $137 million during the first half of 2012. (Star Tribune, June 24) WW salutes the sisters and brothers in Local 167G for their heroic stance against Crystal Sugar’s union-busting attack. May you hold out “one day longer” to preserve your union jobs.

Black workers demand jobs at African-American museum

The DC Jobs or Else coalition of Black workers, community groups, faith leaders and “mad-as-hell” District of Columbia residents marched on the site of the future Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on July 11 to protest discrimination against Black workers by contractor Clark Construction. “We don’t understand how they are going to build a building about us and not allow us to work on that building,” said coalition leader the Rev. George C. Gilbert Jr. He noted that more than 120 Black District of Columbia residents have been turned away, ignored or misled when they applied for jobs. The D.C. Office of Human Rights is investigating a hiring complaint against Clark. (Union City, online newsletter of the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, July 13)

Protesting T-Mobile 3,300-job cuts

T-Mobile, the U.S. affiliate of Deutsche Telekom in Germany, recently closed seven call centers. It laid off 3,300 workers represented by the Communication Workers union and moved the jobs overseas. That’s why the AFL-CIO and Jobs with Justice activists called actions outside T-Mobile stores the week of July 9. Noting that T-Mobile received more than $14 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies in four of the seven communities, CWA is fighting for the workers to receive Trade Adjustment Assistance, which T-Mobile opposes. The federal program provides extended unemployment and job training when jobs are offshored. Meanwhile, leaders of ver.di, the German union representing more than 2 million DT workers, are touring the U.S. to support T-Mobile USA workers as they fight for their rights. (cwa-union.org, July 12)

Vets stop pay cuts for lowest-paid VA workers

A June 13 protest by hundreds of Veterans Administration workers, many of whom are vets themselves, against proposed downgrading of wages for Veterans Health Administration’s lowest-paid employees (mostly women, people of color and vets) was victorious. The VA announced in early July that it was not instituting the pay cuts. The American Federation of Government Employees opposed the “unfounded and arbitrary downgrades,” which it called “a complete disservice to our public servants and our nation’s veterans. The bullying of the lowest wage earners under a pretense of saving a few dollars must end.” (aflcio.org, July 9)

Verizon praises workers, but won’t budge on contract

After Verizon workers put in 12-plus-hour days in 100-plus-degree heat to restore service destroyed by violent thunderstorms in the District of Columbia area July 1, the superprofitable company lavished praise on the members of the Communication Workers and Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions. But that appreciation did not extend to the bargaining table. Verizon continues to demand cuts in compensation of at least $10,000 per worker per year and refuses to offer raises. That’s yet another example of VeriGreedy! (cwa-union.org, July 12)

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