The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.59/No.43           November 20, 1995 
On The Picket Line  

This column is devoted to reporting the resistance by working people to the employers' assault on their living standards, working conditions, and unions.

We invite you to contribute short items to this column as a way for other fighting workers around the world to read about and learn from these important struggles. Jot down a few lines about what is happening in your union, at your workplace, or other workplaces in your area, including interesting political discussions.

Chrysler workers win strike at window factory
Auto workers at Chrysler Corp.'s McGraw Glass plant went on strike November 2. They returned to work four days later, after the company conceded to union demands. The walkout by 1,000 members of United Auto Workers Local 227 in Detroit began over health and safety issues.

There was also concern among union members about Chrysler's attempts to increase the amount of parts production done by other companies. Chrysler outsources 70 percent of its sub-assembly, a much higher figure than those of Ford or General Motors.

Workers at the McGraw plant manufacture windshields and window glass for nearly all of Chrysler's North American autos. Chrysler has established a "just-in-time" system for the production of glass. After a few days of the strike, the company was faced with the decision of idling a number of its auto assembly plants.

Meatpackers vote union in Washington, Nebraska
Workers at the Washington Beef plant in Toppenish, Washington, recently voted 253 to 118 to join Local 1439 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. The company had thwarted a previous organizing drive begun in 1980.

The meatpackers' determination to bring in the union was bolstered by their anger over poor working conditions, inferior benefits, and lack of pay raises as they overcame management's barrage of anti-union propaganda. The workforce included a large proportion of Latino workers, and the union prepared Spanish-language literature to counter company misinformation.

"We have people who want to go to the bathroom, and they don't let them go - especially if they have stickers for the union," said Fernando Yanez. "With the union everything is going to change." In another case, a 16-year struggle to win union recognition ended in victory when workers at Monfort's Grand Island, Nebraska, meatpacking plant voted for the UFCW by a margin of two votes out of some 1,500 ballots cast.

The Grand Island plant is the last of Monfort's five packinghouses to unionize, as the company has a long history of blocking union organizing. UFCW Local 22 in Fremont, Nebraska, was declared the winner by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), after the board resolved a challenge of ballots from a representation election conducted in October, 1994.

"This victory is a tremendous achievement for packinghouse workers," declared Local 22 president Rick Saafeld. "I've worked with the people at this plant since 1982 and they've earned and deserve this win."

Atlanta airport workers launch fight for union
In the center of the newly constructed $25 million atrium here at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, 50 airport workers rallied to kick off a union organizing drive October 31.

"This is the start of a new generation," said Monreal McIntosh to cheers and applause from the crowd. McIntosh is a service truck driver in his early twenties. More than 200 airport service workers have signed a petition demanding a living wage, health insurance, dignity and respect, job security, and health and safety, according to a leaflet they distributed at the rally.

The airport service workers, most of whom are Black, and many young and female, are paid from minimum wage to $5.75 an hour, have no benefits and work at a "hectic" pace. They clean and service planes and handle baggage for Delta Airlines. Delta is the "official" airline for the 1996 Summer Olympics and is the major carrier at the Atlanta airport.

During the last several years Delta has laid off thousands of ramp workers who were paid higher wages and had benefits. The company contracted out the work to ARC Airport Services, which employs the current airline workers. The organizing drive seeks to affiliate the workers with the Service Employees International Union.

Gregory Hempville, a 23-year-old security gate worker who helped to organize the rally explained, "Supervisors talk to you any way they want and as soon as you say something they threaten your job. We are not paid enough to put up with all that. There is a 100 percent turnover rate."

Janet Watts and Mary Wiggins who have worked as baggage checkers for five and six years respectively still only make $4.25 an hour with no benefits. In addition, Janet explained, "I drive 50 miles to work and then I can get bumped and not be able to work that day. I get no show up pay."

Most of the workers are new. Clifford Harris who has worked for ARC just four months said, "I came to see what they're talking about because the company is really dogging us out. It's always ASAP this and ASAP that and that's a safety hazard."

Tiffany, a cabin services worker, said this was only her second day on the job, but she came to the rally because she'd heard other workers talking about it. "It is a dangerous job up in those planes. There's a lot of hazardous chemicals and conditions, and its real hectic. The fumes from the other planes are bad and we don't even have masks."

Derek Bracey from Birmingham, Alabama, and Ellen Haywood in Atlanta, Georgia, contributed to this column.

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