The caravan will end at a “Hands Around the Plant” rally outside the Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. factory here Feb. 27. Supporters of the Steelworkers’ fight are encouraged to join in.
Some 1,050 members of United Steelworkers Local 207L were locked out Nov. 28 after rejecting Cooper Tire’s contract demands to cut wages, speed up work, and establish lower pay and benefits for new hires.
The bosses’ proposed wage scale includes increases to the base rates, but no details on what the new piece rates might be or how much faster workers may have to work to approach their previous income, or even just to keep their job. The company contract would establish—as yet also undisclosed—productivity standards that must be maintained to retain a particular job.
“In recent months, thousands of workers throughout North America have been locked out of their jobs,” pointed out a Feb. 15 USW press release on the caravan. In addition to Cooper Tire and American Crystal, the union statement took note of lockouts by bosses at “Caterpillar, Rio Tinto Alcan, HealthBridge and elsewhere as employers try to drive wages and benefits down.”
Plenty of fliers were available for the Journey for Justice at the local’s successful food drive Sat., Feb. 11, held at the union hall in Findlay.
“I have never done anything like this, but we need to fight for our rights, we need to have a life that supports our families,” Dave Burns, one of the four locked-out Steelworkers going on the journey, told the Militant, as he helped out at the drive. North Dakota is in a worse position not getting unemployment benefits.”
Workers locked out by American Crystal in North Dakota have been denied jobless compensation by the state government.
The Steelworkers continue to gain support from across the country. More than 40,000 pounds of food was delivered Feb. 11 during a drive organized by Women of Steel District 1. Members of USW locals throughout Ohio brought food and money donations.
The union hall was bustling with a human chain bringing in boxes of canned food, fresh fruit, frozen meat, bags of potatoes and more. As large bags of apples were being loaded onto tables a worker helping out said, “These guys don’t know who they are messing with.”
Teresa Brown, a member of Women of Steel District 1 and a locked-out worker, told everyone to take a break to hear an announcement from two USW Local 169 workers who were locked out at AK Steel in 1999-2003.
“Within eight hours $2,270 was raised by passing the hat in our plant of 280 people,” said Brian Speelman, president of Local 169. This was on top of the $500 the union voted to contribute.
“As hard as the [AK Steel] lockout was,” Speelman later said, “it was the most inspiring time in my life. Cooper Tire workers helped us along with many others.”
Messages of support and donations can be sent to USW Local 207L, 1130 Summit St., Findlay, OH 45840. Phone: (419) 422-4224.
Sugar workers kick off 6-state ‘Journey for Justice’
On the Picket Line
Seattle port truckers fight fines and unsafe conditions
Caterpillar fight for severance pay continues
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