On the Picket Line

7 Up Strike Settlement

The 90 workers at the 7 Up distribution center in the Detroit suburb of Redford ended their 22-day strike, with 66% of strikers voting to accept the negotiated contract. The strike had widespread community support in this union town, with many union members attending rallies and picket lines.

The workers at 7 Up are represented by Teamsters Local 337. Their demands included Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday and an end to the two-tier wage structure established in 2005. Workers hired after 2005 earn approximately $4.00 less per hour. About 80% of workers hired after 2005 are Black, while 80% of workers hired before 2005 are white.

Union negotiators agreed to address the two-tier wage structure through attrition. This means lower seniority workers can only upgrade to the higher pay scale to replace someone who quits, retires or dies. Teamsters bargainers failed to win the MLK holiday demand, agreeing that workers could take the federal holiday off as a paid personal day, instead of it becoming a contractual company holiday. The Teamsters negotiations with 7 Up is an example of the weakened position of labor in this country. It’s time for workers to demand their union leadership get tough and start fighting harder against capitalist corporations and their greed. (tinyurl.com/yh3lumb4)

Steelworkers strike ATI

The 1,300 workers at Allegheny Technologies (ATI) haven’t had a raise in over six years. Represented by the United Steelworkers (USW), they went on strike at nine ATI facilities March 30. The union negotiators cite unfair labor practices along with the company’s abysmal compensation record.

One worker who has been employed at ATI for 14 years describes working seven days a week for 18 months in order to keep the company afloat during the pandemic. The company has chipped away at health care benefits and wants the ability to change health care plans in the future without union input. The USW charges that ATI is holding pension benefits hostage, withholding them from workers impacted by plant shutdowns in Louisville, Ky., and Waterbury, Conn., until a contract settlement is reached.

ATI President and  CEO Robert Wetherbee’s message to shareholders boasts that ATI generated $490 million in profit in 2019, and “revenues under the GE contracts alone are expected to exceed 2.5 billion over the life of the agreements.” The USW message is: “Our picket lines are strong and well supported; our resolve for a fair and equitable contract continues and grows stronger every day.” Solidarity! (www.usw.org)

Solidarity with a union brother: Labor supports Mumia’s release

For decades global and national unions have aligned with the movement to free the wrongfully convicted political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

In 1995, Bay Area Typographical Union Local 21 (CWA) wrote to then-Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, that Mumia’s case was “a political frame-up.” That year, while Mumia was still on death row, he refused to schedule a 20/20 interview until the NABET-CWA broadcast engineers’ strike at ABC was settled. Now, Mumia, in poor health, is facing death by incarceration, and nothing but releasing him from prison is just and decent.

Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union calls on members to support the campaign to free Mumia now. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), who shut down 30 ports in 1999 to show solidarity with Mumia, continue to work in the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Most recently, the International Dockworkers Council, with 140,000 members, called on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to release Mumia for humanitarian reasons, but also reiterating their belief in his innocence. Finally, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), in a letter to Wolf, demanded Mumia be released, stating: “His only crime is exposing the racist, capitalist justice system in the U.S., which for decades defended and supported the Apartheid government . . .” (tinyurl.com/yve983r4)

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