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Vol. 75/No. 35      October 3, 2011

Chicago forum discusses
Midwest workers’ struggles
CHICAGO—Three union fighters involved in recent labor struggles spoke on a panel at a September 17 special Militant Labor Forum here titled “Workers Resist in the Midwest.” Steven Lech and Luckie Atkinson, two workers locked-out by Honeywell in Metropolis, Illinois, for 13 months, joined Buddy Howard, who was part of a 10-month lockout fight against Roquette America, a corn processor in Keokuk, Iowa.

Also on the panel was Alyson Kennedy, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party who was part of a 2003-2006 union struggle against C.W. Mining near Huntington, Utah.

Some 230 members of United Steelworkers Local 7-669 were locked out at Honeywell’s uranium plant in Metropolis, Illinois, in June 2010 after rejecting the bosses’ union-busting “last, best, and final offer.” Three months later in September 240 members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 48G were locked out by Roquette America after rejecting a similar union-busting contract proposal.

“We knew what we were going to be up against as much as a year earlier,” said Lech to the 30 workers in attendance. “So we started to prepare.

“Of all its facilities I suppose Honeywell picked Metropolis to go after because they thought we were a bunch of ignorant hillbillies from Kentucky and southern Illinois,” said Lech, describing how the locked-out workers proved the company wrong.

“The contract we ratified was not the old one we had. But it was not Honeywell’s last, best, and final offer either,” he said. “I don’t want to say we won, but we kept our dignity. And we will continue to fight them as we go back in.”

“We’re a different group than when we went out,” Howard told the forum audience. “What many workers experienced during the lockout has changed them forever.”

Howard said unionists have to be prepared and learn from the experiences of other fighters. “The other thing we need is to always have the big picture in mind. And that’s where the Militant really helped us out,” he said.

“Some people asked me, ‘Luckie, why don’t you just get another job,’” Atkinson said. “I told them, I might just do that, but not now. I don’t quit in the middle of a fight.”

Atkinson recounted the successful efforts of USW Local 7-669 to reach out for support across the country and internationally. He described his trip to Los Angeles organized by groups involved in the fight against Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law.

Kennedy pointed to the growing number of workers’ struggles in the United States. “In almost every case where workers have decided to fight back we’ve come out stronger, ready to keep fighting, and ready to fight alongside others,” she said. Kennedy urged all present to extend solidarity to locked-out workers at American Crystal Sugar plants in the Upper Midwest.
Related articles:
Sugar workers’ fight wins growing support
1,300 stand strong against American Crystal
Solidarity with sugar workers’ fight
‘We won’t go away’ say NY Boathouse strikers
Broadening out solidarity for sugar workers
On the Picket Line
Four workers killed in coal mine flood in United Kingdom  
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