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Vol. 74/No. 40      October 25, 2010

On the Picket Line
Sodexo workers strike
over harassment, wages

“I may be a lunch lady, but that doesn’t mean I have to take whatever Sodexo dishes out,” said Rubynell Barbee, a cashier at Morehouse College in Atlanta. “I am striking for every single person in this country who keeps working harder but getting poorer.”

Groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, and school and hospital employees in four states held brief walkouts in early October against Sodexo, the food-services and facility maintenance corporation, to protest low wages, lack of affordable health care, and company threats and harassment against union activists. They are organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Janitors and groundskeepers employed by Sodexo in the Highland Park School District in New Jersey are trying to join the union, the SEIU reported. They charge their company with forbidding them to speak to representatives of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration or the union.

—Cindy Jaquith

Unionists in Iowa
fight company lockout

Members of Local 48G of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, AFL-CIO-CLC, were locked out of the Roquette America plant in Keokuk, Iowa. The unionists voted to reject the company’s latest offer and are maintaining an informational picket line 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Their contract expired September 28. The same day Roquette locked out the workers arriving for the second shift. The company wants to start new employees at $4 below the current starting wage. Workers say the company changes workers’ hours at will and forces overtime. On October 3 Roquette brought in a busload of 60 scabs, calling them “professional contingency workers.”

Union members in Meredosia, Illinois, have sent financial aid, and unions from Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities have offered people to relieve those on the informational picket lines.

Roquette manufactures a variety of corn starches, starch derivatives, and corn syrup at its Keokuk plant.

—Ellen Brickley

Airport workers in
New Zealand defend union

AUCKLAND, New Zealand—Twelve workers from Pacific Flight Catering held a one-day strike October 3 after becoming angry at company attempts to undermine the union. On the picket line, Kevin Mehana told the Militant, “They are prepared to bribe workers to leave the union but they won’t give us the collective bargaining we want.”

The ground stewards have been fighting for a contract since 2008. They say many drivers receive NZ$3 an hour less than airport drivers employed by other companies (NZ$1 = US 73 cents).

The company has begun offering incentives to workers to leave the union. Union delegate Va’a Ngkau reported one worker left the union after he was offered a pay raise that included a NZ$2,700 lump sum payment and a severance agreement .

Days before the strike, the company offered Ngkau NZ$1,000 to call off the strike. His response was to tell the bosses to present the offer to the union, saying, “I can't be bought off.”

—Annalucia Vermunt
Related articles:
GM to begin cutting wages by half at auto plant in Michigan  
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