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Vol. 81/No. 46      December 11, 2017


Calif. Henkel workers continue strike for safety

BAY POINT, Calif. — “Management doesn’t care about safety, we don’t get the respect we deserve,” Felix Rivera, one of the striking members of International Association of Machinists Local 1584 at Henkel Aerospace, told the Militant as he picketed outside the plant here Nov. 25.

“It seems like the company really isn’t negotiating in good faith,” added John McFarland, a production worker with three years at the plant. “It comes down to they’re trying to break us.”

The bitter strike began Oct. 16. This plant, a subsidiary of Henkel AG & Co., based in Germany, manufactures aerospace adhesives used by Boeing, Spirit Airlines, F3 and other companies, workers say. Bosses in Germany reported Henkel’s third-quarter net profits rose 7.1 percent this year.

The Machinists union was won here in a 2013 strike after David Eleidjian was crushed and killed after being pulled into a mixing machine in the plant. The company was cited for safety violations and fined over $200,000.

Brian Fealy, an IAM business representative, told the Militant that there have been three major injuries over the past year from steam burns.

The IAM unionists maintain their pickets 14 hours daily. Only seven of the 80 workers at the plant have crossed the line in six weeks, strikers said. The company is busing in 20 to 30 professional strikebreakers every day, from the notorious Minnesota-based union-busting outfit Strom Engineering.

Derion Oliver started working at Henkel in July. “Boom, I’m on strike,” he said. “This work is dangerous. I sometimes work 60 hours in a week around hazardous chemicals.”

Company bosses terminated strikers’ health care Nov. 1, including for four workers on disability from injuries on the job.

Striker Anthony Tatum, with three years at the plant, expressed frustration over the company’s stalling on a settlement. “I’m ready to go back to work,” he said. “We should be back.”

“There was mediation last week, and we were making progress on the contract language on advancements, safety and grievances,” Fealy said. “But when the discussion focused on back-to-work language, they basically walked out of the mediator’s office.”

Steve Older, another union official, said the bosses want to victimize strikers and keep the strikebreakers. “They want us to return on the company’s schedule, they want the ability to impose picket line discipline that is not subject to the grievance procedure or arbitration. It’s the company’s word, that’s it,” Older said. “They also want to keep these professional scabs in the plant, not subject to union jurisdiction for six months.”

“We have to have the scabs go, and amnesty on the line,” Fealy said.

Donations and messages of support can be sent to IAM Local 1584, 436 McCormick St., San Leandro, CA 94577.
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