The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 30      August 22, 2011

On the Picket Line

Steelworkers in Pennsylvania
fight lockout by Armstrong

Some 260 members of United Steelworkers Local 285 have rejected concessionary demands by Armstrong World Industries at its plant in Marietta, Pennsylvania, and are fighting a company lockout.

Armstrong is pressing to eliminate pensions for all new hires, freeze pension benefits for current employees, gut seniority rights, and raise health-care premiums, explained local union president John Bevel in a phone interview with the Militant.

The Steelworkers voted down the company’s contract offer in mid-June by a 90 percent margin. On July 13 Armstrong came back with a contract that was even worse. Workers chose not to vote on this “slap in the face” offer, said Bevel. The lockout began four days later.

Workers are maintaining 24-hour picket lines seven days a week. They’ve been getting a lot of donations, including snacks and Gatorade, and a lot of horns beeping in support, noted Bevel.

—Brian Williams

Workers demand unpaid wages
as IQT Solutions shuts down

MONTREAL—More than 1,200 workers for call center IQT Solutions at three locations were told, without any notice, July 15 that the company had shut down in Canada. The company packed up its operations in Laval and Trois-Rivières in Quebec and Oshawa, Ontario, without paying the wages it owed.

Workers demonstrated in front of the closed job sites demanding back wages and severance pay.

Although government agencies did provide workers with some immediate financial assistance, they were denied unemployment compensation on the grounds that IQT Solutions has not claimed bankruptcy.

IQT Solutions had planned to move to Nashville, Tennessee, but that fell through when a promised subsidy by the city government there was withdrawn.

—Annette Kouri

Minnesota: nurses in Bemidji
authorize strike against cutbacks

Some 230 nurses at Sanford Hospital in Bemidji, Minnesota, July 28 overwhelmingly voted to reject the hospital’s contract offer and authorized union officials to call a strike, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA).

The nurses are planning a one-day informational picket August 17 outside the hospital. The union contract expired February 28. One of the nurses’ main concerns is patient-to-staffing ratios. They are also resisting company efforts to raise workers’ health insurance payments and eliminate pensions for nurses younger than 46 and replace them with 401(k) plans.

“Staffing levels at Sanford Bemidji Hospital are so bad right now that the hospital has had to go on divert status and close its doors to new patients,” said the MNA website.

On June 10, some 12,000 nurses held a one-day strike at 14 hospitals across the state around similar issues.

—Natalie Morrison

Walkout by hotel workers
in Montreal remains solid

MONTREAL, August 6—The strike of 60 workers at the Marriott Residence Inn downtown here remains solid. Members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions voted 100 percent to strike and walked out July 24, demanding higher wages, better working conditions, vacations, benefits, and “just basic respect.”

Strikers posted placards with their demands in French, Spanish, Creole, and English.

The owner of the franchise has refused to negotiate and, according to the strikers, went on vacation the first day of the walkout and brought in strikebreaking replacement workers.

“We have to clean entire apartments and do 13 in eight hours,” housekeeper Irma Espana told the Militant. “It’s too much.”

“We’re here till we get what we need,” added local union president Jorge Ahomada.

—John Steele

Seattle: hundreds rally to back
hotel workers’ contract demands

SEATTLE—Several hundred hotel workers and supporters rallied July 22 in front of the Westin Hotel here to press their contract demands around wages, job security, safety, and respect on the job. Another 150 workers demonstrated in front of the Doubletree Hotel near the Sea-Tac airport 15 miles south.

Union contracts covering some 1,400 workers at hotels and restaurants in the area have expired this summer, according to UNITE HERE Local 8.

“We are going to fight until we have our jobs, our union, and a fair contract,” said Aracely Cerezo García, a worker at the Hilton who spoke at the rally. She explained that the Hilton Seattle was being sold with no guarantee that the new owners will recognize the union.

—Edwin Fruit

Maritime strike on Great Lakes
ends with union pact extended

MINNEAPOLIS—The American Steamship Company, which operates 14 vessels on the Great Lakes, agreed August 5 to extend its contract with the American Maritime Officers union through at least the end of the 2011 shipping season. The agreement ends a strike by some 140 deck and engine officers and stewards that began August 1 when their contract expired.

Union members voted 99 percent to reject the company’s last-minute proposal, which included eliminating at least 14 jobs, with the option of laying off more than one-third of the workforce, as well as cuts to health care, pensions, and training benefits.

The ships transport taconite, coal, cement, and rock across the Great Lakes. Once off the ships, workers were setting up pickets at the ports of Duluth, Minnesota; Toledo, Ohio; and Green Bay, Wisconsin.

—Tony Lane
Related articles:
45,000 strike against Verizon’s takebacks
‘They’re coming after all us workers’
Workers fight lockout by American Crystal Sugar
Illinois uranium workers: ‘We fought a good fight’
Leader of Roquette struggle backs sugar workers
Corn-processing workers in Iowa discuss lessons of recent lockout fight  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home