Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The following rather personal appeal for solidarity comes from one of the workers on strike at the Bemis manufacturing company in Terra Haute Indiana. These workers are members of the Workers' United Union, formed by about 150,000 workers who broke away from the UNITE HERE union last March because they felt that UH was insufficiently aggressive in organizing and bargaining. They are presently a more militant union than the old UNITE HERE, and they have applied for affiliation with the SEIU Here's the appeal.
Workers aren't lab rats!
Striking Bemis Workers Want Respect!
What if your employer told you that in order to keep your health coverage you and your spouse must submit to invasive health screenings from your insurer. If you refused you'd lose the health coverage you've always counted on. Oh, and the company is self-insured but they promise they won't use your private health information to decide whether to keep your coverage, hire you, fire you, or make your spouse go on a diet.
Unbelievable, but that's what my employer wants to force us to do! That's one of the reasons why more than 700 of us are on strike.
My coworkers and I work in Terra Haute, Indiana. We make the flexible food packaging you see on your grocery store's shelves. Our company has been union for 52 years and is successful, with profits up more than 16%.
We did not make the decision to strike lightly. In an effort to avoid a strike we made an alternative offer to work without a contract while the bargaining continued but Bemis refused and actually lowered its offer. They even cut off insurance benefits which we had already paid for and demanded we accept low wage temp workers turning good jobs into McJobs.
Will you take a stand with us?
In solidarity,
William J. Kirby Jr.
Vice President Local 1426 in Terre Haute
Chicago Midwest Regional Joint Board,
Workers United
Please go to THIS LINK to send the following letter to Bemis management.
Dear Henry Theisen, President & CEO,
I am writing to express my frustration with the contract your Company proposed to your employees on July 14, 2009. Your actions have driven loyal longtime workers to strike. The workers' requests have been reasonable and the Company's actions indicate bad faith. We urge you to reconsider your latest offer for the long term benefit of the company and the community that has supported you for decades.

Your latest contract proposed that the workers accept temporary employees, who work for low wages and receive no benefits, as co-workers, working side by side with them, in the workplace. These temporary workers would have no long range future with the Company, and would not be contributing back to the community in any meaningful way. You cannot expect workers to agree to a contract that leaves their health benefits and eligibility open to change with no discussion between the company and workers. That negates the very point of having a contract in the first place.

Additionally Bemis' insistence that workers and their spouses submit to invasive health screenings for is both an invasion of privacy and bad company policy. Bemis has been union for 52 years and union members have helped the company grow and prosper. These workers and the community that depends on them need you to respect their contributions to your success and offer a contract worthy of both the company and the workers.

1 comment:

Elana Levin said...

Thanks for writing in support of striking workers at Bemis!

I will make sure that Will and the other folks on the line see this.