The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 47           December 5, 2005  
On the Picket Line
GM announces plant closings
The world’s largest automaker, General Motors, announced plans November 21 to lay off 30,000 employees in North America by 2008—5,000 more than it had projected in June. CEO Richard Wagoner listed the nine plants slated for closing. Factories to be shut down are in Doraville, Georgia; one in Flint and two in Lansing, Michigan; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Pittsburgh; Spring Hill, Tennessee; and two near Toronto.

Aiming to quiet speculation of the company filing for bankruptcy protection, Wagoner said GM would save $7 billion a year with the cuts. In October, GM won concessions from the United Auto Workers that will save the company billions of dollars a year by reducing health-care benefits for active workers and retirees.

The Detroit News reports that Ford Motors “plans to announce deep restructuring in January—its second in less the five years—that will call for significant plant closings and job cuts.”

—Arrin Hawkins  
Judge slashes fines on Alabama coal operator for mining deaths
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama—Fines against Alabama coal boss Jim Walter Resources for actions leading to the deaths of 13 miners have been reduced from $435,000 to a miserly $3,000. Administrative Law Judge David Barbour ruled November 2 the mine owners hadn’t deliberately broken federal mining law and their violations hadn’t directly caused the accident in which the miners died.

On Sept. 23, 2001, two explosions ripped through the company’s Blue Creek #5 mine in Brookwood, Alabama, killing the miners. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued eight citations against the company for conditions and practices that led to the explosions. Judge Barbour has vacated six and modified the remaining two.

In the four weeks before the explosions, MSHA cited Jim Walter Resources 10 times for “serious” violations, including five related to roof control. The mine owners received 52 other citations during the same period, including at least 18 for accumulation of combustible material.

—Clay Dennison  
Virginia day laborers confront harassment by Minutemen
HERNDON, Virginia—“We know we have rights,” said Roberto Torres, a Honduran-born construction worker. “We don’t want to make any trouble, but we won’t be intimidated by them.” He was referring to about a dozen members of the local Minutemen chapter who have tried to harass immigrant workers. Each morning starting around 5:00 a.m. Torres joins nearly 200 other day laborers in a 7-Eleven parking lot in search of work.

In August the city council approved a proposal to provide day laborers with a hiring and training center. It is scheduled to open in December, Torres said.

In November the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project began taking photographs and videos of the workers and potential employers, and following them to their work sites and homes. Organizers of the vigilante outfit say they will turn over the information they gather to immigration authorities and the Internal Revenue Service.

—Sam Manuel  
Unionists across Australia protest antilabor laws
SYDNEY, Australia—More than 500,000 workers rallied across Australia November 15 in a national day of action called by the Australian Council of Trade Unions under the banner “Your Rights at Work. Worth Fighting For.”

The protests condemned antiunion laws introduced by the federal Liberal/National coalition government that are aimed at dramatically increasing the scope bosses have to gut collective bargaining in favor of nonunion individual contracts. The new laws also target minimum wages and conditions codified for decades in industry-wide “awards.”

Some 45,000 marched in central Sydney, and more than 200,000 in Melbourne. More than 300 “stop work” rallies and marches were organised around the country.

—Bob Aiken  
New Zealand unionists solidarize with Australian workers
Under the banner “Australian unions under attack,” the national union federation in New Zealand called protest rallies outside Australian diplomatic offices in Auckland and Wellington in solidarity with the actions in Australia. Among the 150 who gathered at the protest in Auckland called by the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) were representatives from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, National Distribution Union, and the Maritime Union.

In Wellington, CTU Maori Vice President Sharon Clair told 150 rally participants that in the 1990s many workers fled New Zealand to Australia, where wages remain 30 percent higher. However, because of measures being introduced by the Australian government they now face the same fight there

—Terry Coggan
and Christine Beresford

Related articles:
After winning contract, meat packers in Canada fight for stronger union
Striking mechanics rally in Minnesota; Northwest Airlines imposes wage cuts on entire workforce  
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