USWA members and their supporters have maintained picket lines and solidarity activities in face of a 13-month lockout by the bosses.
Some 20 carloads of steelworkers and their supporters organized a caravan here January 29 at the gates of Kaiser's Mead and Trentwood plants. Organized by Spouses of Steel, a group whose purpose is to organize solidarity with the locked-out steelworkers, the caravan slowly drove by the picket line, honking in support. Some stopped and joined the line. "This is our way of supporting the union," said Ginger Yaeger, a member of Spouses of Steel. "Our goal is to keep the morale up," she said.
The steelworkers struggle with Kaiser Aluminum began with a strike in September 1998 by 3,100 workers against the bosses' plans to eliminate hundreds of jobs, contract out work, and lower wages, benefits, and pensions below the industry standard.
In January 1999 the Kaiser bosses refused the union's unconditional offer to return to work while continuing negotiations for a new contract. The bosses responded by locking out workers at its plants here and in Tacoma, Washington; Gramercy, Louisiana; and Newark, Ohio.
Les Hagerty and David Hoffman, who have worked for Kaiser 27 and 11 years respectively, explained that some steelworkers have had to get other jobs, while others have opted to retire. Many workers continue picketing, even while working elsewhere. Hoffman said the company forced them to strike with its unreasonable and greedy demands. Morale at the picket lines was solid in favor of staying out as long as necessary to win the fight.
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