The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 44      December 5, 2011

On the Picket Line

Crane factory workers
in Wisconsin defend union

MANITOWOC, Wis.—“We are standing up for our rights and defending our union,” said Wayne Rebarchek, a member of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 10, Local 516. Rebarchek, who was organizing the picket shift change in front of Manitowoc Crane, has worked at the plant for 22 years.

Some 200 members of IAM Local 516 walked off the job November 14 after rejecting by a margin of 183-3 what they say is a union-busting contract proposal and voting 181-2 to authorize a strike.

Company demands include what they call “freedom of choice”—an open shop in which each employee decides whether they want to pay union dues. “They left us no choice but to reject the contract,” Ben Elizondo, the local business agent, told the Militant. “This is not a wage issue. To us it is union busting.”

The 800 workers at Manitowoc Crane make gigantic crawler cranes that are used in construction and other industries. They are organized in several different unions. Striking Machinists said 156 members of the Boilermakers union just received layoff notices.

Teachers and other workers have walked the picket line bringing solidarity, food and hot drinks, said Elizondo.

—Alyson Kennedy

Flour mill workers’ strike
in Texas solid after 7 months

SAN ANTONIO—“Spirits are up. We know if the company went back to their previous offer we could end this,” said Manuel Arcos, a machine operator for 28 years and member of Teamsters Local 657 on strike at C.H. Guenther & Son Pioneer Flour Mill.

Some 90 members of the local walked out April 25 after the company reopened the union contract and demanded increases in the weekly insurance premium from $11 to $35.

“In my 30 years in the mill I’ve never gone to a company picnic or Christmas party, not once,” said Salvador Garay. “I always knew the company had a wall up. Now I tell everyone you can see it.”

Passersby honked in support. Sometimes some stop to visit at the plant entrance in a busy intersection on the south side of the city, according to strikers.

The company has been maintaining some production with replacement workers, nonunion workers, and a few union members who crossed the picket line.

Last month several members of the local participated in a protest at the nearby Oak Farms Dairy, demanding the reinstatement of a union supporter who was fired during a union-organizing drive there. At the protest, dairy workers submitted a petition demanding recognition of their union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers.

The Teamsters have set up two funds to support the strikers. One is the Pioneer Christmas Fund, the other the General Assistance Fund. Checks can be made out and sent to Teamsters Local 657, 8214 Roughrider Dr., San Antonio, TX 78239.

—Mike Fitzsimmons

Related articles:
Longshore workers prepare for long fight
Battle union busting at Washington port
Locked-out sugar workers ‘get word out’ on their fight
Poultry workers strike in southeast Australia  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home