The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.61/No.33           September 28, 1997 
Rail Dispatchers Strike Over Health And Safety  
This column is devoted to reporting the resistance by working people to the employers' assault on their living standards, working conditions, and unions.

We invite you to contribute short items to this column as a way for other fighting workers around the world to read about and learn from these important struggles. Jot down a few lines about what is happening in your union, at your workplace, or other workplaces in your area, including interesting political discussions.

ATLANTA - On September 3 at 11 a.m., some 100 train dispatchers at five Norfolk Southern offices across the southeast walked off the job in response to the company's threat to fire a train dispatcher for calling in sick.

The strike lasted about six hours, ending when a federal judge invoked a temporary restraining order and ordered them back to work.

The strikers are members of the American Train Dispatchers Department (ATDD) of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. In a union press release, ATDD president Les Parmelee stated that the railroad "is jeopardizing the safety of its train dispatching employees, its other employees and the public by using fear and intimidation in refusing to grant its train dispatching employees sick leave during periods of bona fide illness. Instead, the Carrier expects its train dispatchers to work wherever and whenever it requires without regard to the physical ability of the employee."

The dispatchers' picket lines were respected by all the other crafts. In the Inman terminal in Atlanta, the first shift was held over to keep the railroad running after the strike ended.

Rally backs locked-out Tufts University workers
SOMERVILLE, Massachusetts - A rally called to support locked-out Tufts University custodial workers drew almost 200 people here September 3, including locked-out workers, their families, community supporters, and Tufts students.

On July 31 some 110 unionized Tufts custodians, members of the Service Employers International Union (SEIU) Local 254, were locked out of their jobs, and replaced by workers employed by a subcontractor, International Service Systems (ISS), a multinational janitorial subcontracting company.

The workers employed by ISS are paid $3.50 less per hour than the original workers. The SEIU members were replaced after the company pushed through a contract that gave them a choice between losing their jobs and taking a 39 percent pay cut.

The vote on this contract took place on Tufts property, with no voting lists, checks on union cards, and with the replacement ISS workers escorted into the meeting and instructed to vote `yes' or lose their jobs. Union stewards were denied access to the meeting by Tufts police. Under these voting conditions, the contract passed.

Around 80 workers who refused to accept the new contract, remain locked out. Meanwhile, Somerville and Medford City police, along with Tufts University cops, are escorting the ISS workers to the campus and from building to building, and are arresting any locked-out workers who try to leaflet.

During the rally, workers spoke to the crowd from the back of a pickup truck, and drew honks from passing drivers. A highlight of the rally was when a brown UPS truck passed by. The crowd cheered and blew whistles, and the UPS driver honked and raised his fist, beaming.

After the rally, the workers and their supporters marched around the campus, chanting and beating trash can lids and the tops of pots and pans. They stopped in front of the president's quarters and chanted "No justice - No peace!" Many students hanging out on the first day of classes seemed bewildered by the protest, but they took leaflets explaining the workers' case, and many joined the march.

On the way out, the demonstration passed the campus kitchen. Cooks had gathered by the window and greeted the marchers with their raised fists and cooking implements.

At a brief rally following the march, union members and student leaders outlined plans for other activities, and for building more support for the workers among Tufts students.

Abby Tilsner, member of United Transportation Union Local 511 in Atlanta, and Elena Tate from Cambridge, Massachusetts, contributed to this article.  
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