The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 3           January 23, 2006  
California: striking laundry workers
press fight for livable wages, pensions
(front page)
COLTON, California—Chanting and banging on metal tins, laundry workers on strike here marched around the Angelica laundry plant during an expanded “family day” picket line on January 8. The more than 300 members of the UNITE HERE union employed at the plant have maintained a round-the-clock picket line since December 18, when they rejected the company’s “final offer” and walked off the job to demand better wages and retirement benefits.

“My grandma has been working here for 26 years, but if I got a part-time job I’d probably be making more money than her,” said Lorena López, 15, whose grandmother Lucia López is on strike.

Laurie Stalnaker, executive secretary-treasurer of the San Bernadino/Riverside County Central Labor Council, was also on the picket line. “I want to help get out the word to the rest of the labor movement about your struggle,” she told the strikers.

The striking workers have visited many other laundries in the area seeking solidarity. “We are asking for the support of other workers,” said Sinoe Solís, a machine operator. “We are ready to work, but not without a signed contract.”

The company has refused to negotiate with the union since the walkout. A challenge strikers have faced is harassment by provocateurs. Maria Torres, one of the strikers, described an incident where hot coffee was spilled on a picketer. “They want us to get mad and do something they can use against the union, but we haven’t fallen for it,” she said.

Strikers are also trying to win over temporary workers and a small number of line-crossers that the company has used to maintain some production. Shop steward Debra Crawford said she explains the role of the union in preventing discrimination by the company. “I am the only Black person working here,” she said. “The company doesn’t want people who speak English. But all they can do is fire me—and I’ve got a union, so I’ll get my job back.”

“If I have to be the last one, I’ll still be on this picket line!” said Lou Pacheco. “In life, you only get what you fight for.”  
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