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Vol. 76/No. 35      October 1, 2012

On the Picket Line

Bronx pharmaceutical workers
picket during 3-day lockout

BRONX, New York—Workers at the Perrigo pharmaceutical company here set up picket lines during a three-day lockout, which began Sept. 4.

A week earlier, the workers voted to reject a company contract proposal despite a recommendation by Teamsters Local 210 officials to accept it.

The company had offered $1.80 an hour wage increase over three years. Wages for some 350 production workers at Perrigo, one of the largest manufacturers of non-prescription medicine in the world, begin at $8.50 an hour and many longtime workers make under $15 an hour.

“We need to be able to pay our rent, and the company’s offer was not enough,” said Sonia Rosa, a packaging worker at the plant for more than 12 years.

After three days workers approved the contract proposal with no changes. “I am still glad we did it, we stood up for ourselves,” said Belkis Polanco, a packaging worker, who has worked there for 14 years.

“Many people are not happy with the contract,” said Virgen López, “and the company is going to keep pressuring the workers. It does not end here.”

—Róger Calero

Walmart warehouse workers
strike in Illinois and California

ELWOOD, Ill.—Some 30 workers went on strike at the Walmart distribution center here outside Joliet Sept. 15, after turning in a petition to the employment agency that hires them, demanding higher wages, regular hours and job safety.

Elwood workers say that Roadlink Workforce Solutions does not pay all hours worked, is not paying overtime wages, and pays less than the minimum wage. Several workers were fired after presenting the petition.

“When we set up a picket line they changed our status to ‘suspended until further notice,’” said Chelsee Stevenson, 19, a freight hauler.

“They tell you you’re worthless, and then expect you to stay until the work is finished, sometimes 16 or 17 hours,” said Ted Ledwa, a shipping worker. “You never see overtime pay because you never clear 40 hours a week.”

The workers, together with Warehouse Workers for Justice, are picketing the distribution center every day from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Neither Walmart nor Roadlink returned requests for comment.

Some three dozen employment agency workers at a Mira Loma, Calif., warehouse that supplies Walmart stores went on strike Sept. 12 to protest unsafe working conditions.

Along with other supporters they are walking 50 miles from Mira Loma to Los Angeles to draw attention to their fight.

Betsy Farley

Locked-out workers picket
Quebec metal distributor

BOUCHERVILLE, Quebec—Russel Metals Inc. locked out 94 workers at its Acier Leroux plant here after workers took a longer than usual lunch break Sept. 10 to pressure the company during contract negotiations. The workers, members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), have been without a contract since May 1. On Aug. 19 they had voted 100 percent in favor of authorizing union officials to call a strike.

Workers are seeking protection against contracting out jobs, more union control over health and safety, and wage increases for workers loading and unloading trucks.

“Safety is an issue. There are lots of accidents,” union President Lucien Dallaire told the Militant on the picket line Sept. 16. “They want to weaken union rights and reduce the number of sick days,” added Jacques Boutin, a truck driver at the plant for 28 years.

Workers said the steel distribution company obtained a court injunction limiting the number of pickets to 10 and imposed time limits on how long they can hold up trucks. But Boutin said the work stoppage has reduced shipments from “900,000 pounds of iron a day to 150,000 pounds based on the number of trucks leaving the plant.” The unionists picket around-the-clock.

The company has not returned calls requesting comment.

—Beverly Bernardo and John Steele

Workers fight for contracts
at dozens of Quebec hotels

MONTREAL—Fifteen Quebec hotels have reached tentative agreements with the Confederation of National Trade Unions or signed contracts in recent days. Demonstrations, 24-hour strikes, and lockouts have taken place at several of the hotels since coordinated negotiations on contracts for 5,500 workers at 35 hotels began when contracts expired in May.

Some of the largest of the hotels are among those that have settled. Negotiations continue at 20 remaining hotels and workers at three smaller hotels—the Sinomonde, Expresso and Maritime—are still locked out.

Settlements at the 15 hotels are similar: four-year union contracts with yearly 3 percent wage increases, 2 percent increases in employer pension funds, and some protection from job cuts due to “green” programs.

Some 300 workers who were locked out by the Hyatt Regency July 25 approved their new contract by a 92 percent margin on Sept. 14.

The bosses “gave us the union platform,” Hyatt worker Rose Pestelle Jacques told the Militant. “Now we have to go to Sinomonde and Expresso. They need help because they haven’t settled yet.”

“The bosses are threatening to close the hotel and turn it into a condo,” Roberto Guillaume, a bellboy for 34 years, said on the Maritime picket line. “But we’ll keep fighting.”

“In ’86, they were on strike for six weeks,” said Lucie Duquette, pointing to Guillaume. “They fought for what we have today.”

—Katy LeRougetel and John Steele

Related articles:
Miners in S. Africa win wage raise despite crackdown by government
Teachers in Chicago end 9-day strike
Hundreds killed in two factory fires in Pakistan
W. Va. miners demand pensions, health care in bankruptcy  
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