Saturday, April 18, 2009

While they never truly disappeared, strikes that take the form of workplace occupations are becoming more and more common in these hard economic times. While it would be gratifying if more of them were to take the form of permanent occupations where the workplace is reopened as a producers' cooperative, such as what has happened often in Argentina, even as limited pressure tactics on management these occupation deliver the goods better than more traditional strike tactics do. Two recent examples are cited below. The first is from the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago. The item below is from the AFL-CIO blog, and it avoids the issue of the fact that the union representing the workers at Republic, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), is not a member of the AFL-CIO. The UE considers the structure of the AFL-CIO to be undemocratic. Still, I guess that the AFL-CIO are to be commended for inviting the UE to speak to them.
Union Leader at Republic Windows: ‘We Don’t Have to Wait Until the Boss Screws Us’:
by James Parks, Apr 16, 2009
The power of workers comes through with a union. That’s the message and lesson learned during the successful sit-in by nearly 300 workers at the Republic Windows & Doors plant in Chicago last December.

Workers at Republic made justice happen. After a six-day sit-in at the plant, the workers, members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, faced down the company and one of the nation’s biggest financial institutions. The company announced it was shutting down and that the workers would not receive the severance and accrued vacation pay they were owed (see video).

Bank of America, which received billions in taxpayer bailout funds, cut off the company’s line of credit. Outraged by the move, a coalition of workers, community groups, politicians and religious leaders shamed the bank and company into backing down.

UE Organizing Director Bob Kingsley, speaking at a brown-bag discussion at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., told the audience the Republic workers’ battle “could not have been won without the labor and community support.”

There were demonstrations in places I never heard of. We had major league international union support.

Not only did that community support play a big role in the workers’ victory at Republic, it was crucial to getting the workers back on the job after the plant closed. The Republic plant is scheduled to reopen in coming weeks under a new owner, Serious Materials. UE members will be recalled to their jobs as work ramps up at the plant, under a new UE contract negotiated with the plant’s new owners.

Serious Materials, which makes energy efficient “green” windows, was first alerted to the plant’s availability by the Sierra Club, one of the groups backing the workers’ strike, Kingsley said.

Because of the Republic workers’ struggle, all workers are better off, says AFL-CIO Organizing Director Ken Zinn.

If they had not had a union, they would have all had to go home with nothing.

Local 1110 President Armando Robles says what happened to the Republic workers can happen anywhere. That’s why we need to push Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. The workers won because they have a union and can come together to fight for their rights, he said. Now is the time to mobilize to protect workers’ rights, he said.(Molly Note-It really has to be mentioned here, that the obvious is true, that the union at Republic organized without the EFCA, and that the wide support that they received had nothing whatsoever to do with any gift of government, no matter how much some in the American union movement may think that such a gift is the solution to all their problems. No, when the Democratic friends of the AFL-CIO do pass the EFCA then the great masses of American workers will not suddenly and magically flock to the unions to sign up. It is a long standing anarchist contention that dependence on state handouts produces little of value, and that actual gains have to be won by real organizing. They aren't granted by government.)
The battle is not over. It is time to start acting and talking. We don’t have to wait until the boss screws us.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, workers at FCI Microconnections in Mantes-la-Jolie in France also occupied their workplace. Despite being represented by the Communist dominated CGT, whose conservatism makes the AFL-CIO look like the CNT, the workers persisted and won their demands. This goes to show, once more, the power of this tactic. Here's the story from the pages of the British site LibCom.
Electronics workers save their jobs in France:
After an occupation and strike lasting over six weeks workers at the FCI Microconnections in Mantes-la-Jolie have saved their jobs.

The strike began on February 24th with workers demanding assurances on their future. Management refusal to give information on production at an equivalent factory in Singapore and an announcement that there was 'overstaffing' led workers to believe that the company was planning to shut the factory down and shift production. Over half of the factory's 400 workers occupied the factory to prevent any removal of equipment.

Workers held the factory and picketed for seven weeks, in spite of a legal order to quit the premises issued on the 26th of March. 100 workers responded by going to the company headquarters in Versailles and blockading the chief executive in the building for four hours to demand negotiations.

Management continued to deny that any redundancies were planned until the CGT uncovered a document detailing a redundancy plan for November on the 3rd of April. This increased support amongst the workers, especially the non-strikers.

A week later after negotiations between the CGT and CFDT unions and management, mediated by the region's sous-prefet and the work and employment bureau, an agreement was announced. The workers had succeeded in winning a guarantee that the factory would stay open until 2014 with no job losses before 2011. Workers also won payment for 27 of their 34 strike days.


Herbert Barry Woodrose said...

Have I told you lately I love this blog? No, of course not. I love this blog. Are you on Z? I put this on my blogroll.

mollymew said...

I assume you mean "Z-Net", and no I am not. Z Communications offers hosting for blogs, websites, etc., but this blog is totally independent. Not that I think what Z Communications offers is valueless, but I have a suspicion that it puts an extra layer of access between a blog and its readership,making the blog harder to find.

Herbert Barry Woodrose said...

Sorry, my bad - I don't blog on Z either, I don't even get how they do it there. I just meant are you a member of Z Net, which I gather you aren't. Anyway, very much enjoy Molly's Blog and Molly's Polls.