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Vol. 75/No. 41      November 14, 2011

On the Picket Line

ILWU longshore workers
in Wash. win int’l solidarity

LONGVIEW, Wash.—International solidarity actions and messages of support are increasing for International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 workers fighting union busting at the EGT Development grain terminal here.

EGT has refused to hire ILWU workers in violation of a lease agreement with the Port of Longview. Instead, EGT hired members of Operating Engineers Local 701 through a subcontractor under inferior conditions and without a contract. The ILWU has maintained picket lines outside EGT since June.

On October 21 Maritime Union of Australia youth members demonstrated in solidarity with the ILWU in Longview. The group “Young MUA” protested the presence of the STX Jasmine ship at Australia’s Port of Newcastle. The STX Jasmine, based from the Port of Longview, belongs to STX Pan Ocean, one of the owners of EGT.

While a contingent of MUA members held banners on the dock, Maritime union member Ben West told the ship’s captain that there will be more actions if the Longview dispute is not resolved .

Messages of solidarity and support have also been received from the Panama Canal Pilots Union, and dockworkers in Norway and Denmark.

“We appreciate the solidarity that we are getting from throughout the world. The ILWU has a lot of friends,” Local 21 President Dan Coffman told the Militant. “What the police have done to unionists here sends a message to labor in the world. Our response is ‘Don’t tread on the union, its officers and members.’”

Coffman was referring to the numerous cop assaults and arrests carried out against union members in the course of months of peaceful protests at the port.

—Mary Martin

Calif. port drivers: ‘Recognize us
like the union we already are’

SAN PEDRO, Calif.—About 125 people rallied outside the Toll Group shipping company here October 27 in support of truck drivers who are fighting against work conditions and for union recognition. Sixty-two of the company’s 75 drivers for the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have signed on to be represented by the Teamsters.

“They pay us $12 an hour,” Xiomara Perez, who has worked at Toll Group for three years, told the Militant. “At the trucking yard in Wilmington, they have portable toilets instead of bathrooms and no separate toilets for women. There’s no place to eat our lunch, no water to wash our hands, we have to bring our own drinking water. We say, enough! We want the company to recognize us like the union we already are.”

“I have been waiting a long time for this,” said Remberto Martinez. “I worked at another place for 10 years. I started talking about organizing and the company let me go. Here, I met people who think like me. We started out like grains of sand, then we started little by little to talk to others.”

The company refused petitions signed by 1,000 harbor area residents urging better conditions for the truckers.

Ellie García

Construction workers strike to
defend union hiring in Quebec

MONTREAL—Thousands of Quebec construction workers walked off the job October 24 and 25 to defend union control of hiring. The Quebec Construction Commission, a governmental body, reported that 150 worksites were closed the first day of the strike. Union officials called on workers to return to work October 26.

The workers were protesting Bill 33, which would eliminate the system where the unions assign workers to employers. Instead, control over hiring would be given to the Quebec Construction Commission, which includes representatives of both the unions and companies.

The strikers were mainly members of the Quebec Federation of Labour-Construction and the Quebec Provincial Council of Construction Trades (International). Together the two unions represent 110,000 of 155,000 construction workers in the province. Although union officials said that they did not organize the job action, the unions could face a $70,000 a day fine for promoting an “illegal” walkout.

The attack is part of a broader government antiunion campaign in the construction industry under the pretext of fighting corruption.

—Joe Young

UK bakery workers prepare six
days of strikes against two tiers

MANCHESTER, England—“If we don’t make a stand now, it’ll only get worse,” union secretary Julie Summersgill told the Militant after members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union from Park Cake Bakeries here met October 29 to plan six days of strike action November 8-10 and December 6-8. The 600 company workers at Oldham and 200 in Bolton voted for the strikes by a 2-1 margin.

David Gilmartin, union chair at the Oldham plant, said they are standing up to the company’s decision to hire 30 workers at minimum wage with no guaranteed hours. “It’s really to avoid the new legislation for agency workers,” referring to the October 1 European Union law, which says workers hired through employment agencies should have the same pay and conditions as their “permanent” coworkers. With nearly 400 agency workers at the plant making minimum wage with no guaranteed hours, Gilmartin added, the company can claim the agency workers’ conditions are comparable to the new hires.

“The company claims this doesn’t affect all of us, but it’s not true,” said Julie Summersgill, who has worked at the plant for more than 20 years. The bosses recently fired two employees who refused to train new hires until the matter is settled with the union, she said.

—Pete Clifford

Qantas airlines threatened
lockout in drive against union

SYDNEY, Australia—In a move hailed by big business figures here as a “watershed” moment in industrial relations, Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce grounded the airline’s entire fleet of 108 planes on October 29 to prepare a lockout of its workers in the midst of contract negotiations.

The shutdown was aimed at union pilots, maintenance workers, baggage handlers and ground staff who had carried out rolling strikes over the last several months. Joyce said that Qantas took “our own industrial action to bring it to a head.”

Some 68,000 passengers were stranded in 22 cities around the world by the sudden cancellation of all Qantas flights.

Citing “damage to the national economy,” the federal Labor government convened an emergency hearing of its labor tribunal, Fair Work Australia. On October 31 the tribunal ordered the cessation of industrial action by both sides—giving Qantas what it wanted: a ban on strikes by the workers. If no agreement is reached, the dispute will go to compulsory arbitration.

In August, in the face of intensified international competition, Qantas announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs, shift more operations offshore and base two new low-cost subsidiary carriers in Asia.

Unions covering pilots and licensed mechanics, along with the Transport Workers Union, which organizes ground and catering staff, are seeking guarantees to maintain jobs, pay and conditions.

Ron Poulsen

Related articles:
Midwest sugar workers: ‘We’re not backing down’
Donations raise spirits of locked-out unionists
‘Labor struggles resist bosses’ drive to crush our unions, morale’  
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