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Vol. 75/No. 39      October 31, 2011

On the Picket Line

Oshkosh workers defeat
company’s temp worker push

OSHKOSH, Wis.—In good spirits members of United Auto Workers Local 578 poured out of the Aviation Museum hangar here October 15. They had just voted 77 percent to ratify a contract with Oshkosh Corp. that did not include the company’s previous demand to be able to hire as much as 10 percent of the workforce as nonunion temporary employees.

The temporary worker stipulation was the main reason 3,100 union members rejected two earlier contract offers. The first offer was voted down September 30 by 85 percent of the membership. A week later the company’s second proposal was rejected by 63.5 percent.

“I think they tried to scare us into supporting the contract,” Kelly Williams, a material handler who has worked at the Oshkosh truck plant for 10 years, told the Militant. “They say they want the company to be competitive. We say we want a share of their profits.”

Two government contracts for vehicles used in Afghanistan pushed company sales toward $10 billion in the last fiscal year, an increase of 188 percent from the previous year. During the past five years, the number of workers has doubled.

“Everybody stood united,” said Joe Preisler, vice president of UAW Local 578. “They picketed, rallied, wore the same color shirts. That has to continue. It’s all of us together. No member gets left behind.”

—Ilona Gersh

IAM strikes at nuclear weapons
plant in Kansas City, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo., October 14—Workers on the picket line at the sprawling Bannister Federal Complex here say that Honeywell’s plan to cut pay for new hires by 50 percent was the main reason they voted to strike. Eighty-five percent of the members of the International Association of Machinists rejected the company’s contract proposal October 9.

In the first week of the walkout at the federal nuclear weapons facility union members organized two marches from the union hall to the plant. Around-the-clock pickets are stationed at four of the complex’s entrances.

A large inflatable rat outside the plant holds a banner saying, “Honeywell is unfair to their current and future employees.” Honeywell is also pressing to make retirees pay the entire cost of their health insurance premiums.

While no radioactive components are produced at the nuclear weapons plant, health and safety is a big concern for workers. Many pointed to the danger of contracting berylliosis, a potentially deadly lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium.

A Family Solidarity Rally has been called for Saturday, October 22.

—David Rosenfeld

Building cleaners rally in NYC
ahead of contract expirations

NEW YORK—About 400 office cleaners organized by Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ and supporters rallied in the Financial District here October 12 to support tens of thousands of building cleaners in contract negotiations in the region.

Contracts for thousands of cleaners in the Washington, D.C., area and Philadelphia expired October 16. D.C. area workers are voting on a tentative pact. In New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Miami contracts expire December 31.

Speakers included Hector Figueroa, secretary treasurer of Local 32BJ; Lucien Clarke, a locked-out building worker at Flatbush Gardens apartments in Brooklyn; Teamster-organized auction workers locked out by Sotheby’s; a young woman representing Occupy Wall Street; and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 1109, representing Verizon workers recently on strike who are still negotiating a new contract.

“They want to take away some of our sick days and make us pay hundreds of dollars to access the emergency room,” Rosa Delgado, a cleaner for 11 years, told the Militant. “Where am I going to get the money?”

Following the rally, demonstrators marched again to join Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park where they got a warm welcome.

—Rebecca Williamson

Related articles:
Immigrants stand up to Alabama antiworker law
1-day strike hits plants, schools in parts of state
ILWU workers spread word about union battle at Washington port  
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