Thursday, September 16, 2010
MOTTS STRIKE ENDS VICTORY OR DEFEAT ?:
Well the strike at the Motts plant in Williamson New York has finally ended after a vigorous continent wide solidarity campaign. Now Molly can go back to buying Clamato juice by the case. Yum ! The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) who are the parent union of the RWDSU who represent the Motts workers are 'declaring victory". Here is their statement from the Canadian website.
Mott’s strike ends in victory
The four-month strike by three hundred RWDSU-UFCW Local 220 members at a Mott’s bottling plant in upstate New York has come to a successful conclusion.
Workers at the plant, owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS), have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement by a margin of 3 to 1.
“This is a very important victory for our Local 220 brothers and sisters,” said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. “Their resolve was reinforced by the solidarity and support of UFCW International and UFCW Canada members and local unions across North America through their letters, petitions and boycott of DPS products.”
More than 300 members work at the Mott’s plant in Williamson, New York. With the successful conclusion of the strike, the campaign to boycott DPS products has also come to an end. The conclusion of the work stoppage also marked the end of UFCW Canada's very successful No to Clamato/Down with Caesar campaign, which was widely received by Canadians across the country.
"Our brothers and sisters in Canada were a key part of this fight," says RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. "The donations to the hardship fund we received from Canadians, the support of Members of Parliament, and innovative campaigns like UFCW Canada's "No to Clamato/Down with Caesar" petition drive - all of these things helped Local 220 members know that they were not alone as they fought for good middle class jobs. We are grateful to our brothers and sisters in the UFCW."
All, however, is not wine and roses in this agreement. It is, I guess, expected that the unions involved would blow their own horns about "victory". Expected yes, but is it either useful or desirable ? This fault called in old-fashioned language "triumphalism" is hardly restricted to unions or the business world in general. It is a widely spread human tendency. Where it becomes harmful is where the disconnect from reality is so great that pretty well anyone other than a protagonist can see the discrepancy. In such cases the claims do little other than discredit the claimant. This is where it becomes undesirable. It becomes a hindrance ie not useful when it prevents the protagonist from dispassionately analyzing what went wrong and what went right and making future plans. be my guest to judge where the union proclamations of "victory" fall in this case.
Many others outside of those immediately involved have opined that the strike was less than a clear victory. I could quote many sources, but here is a particularly good one from Mike Elk in the Huffington Post. This has been a long running theme on this blog. Truth is usually a messy affair in which one side is never always either right or good. After many years of being "on one side" I have come to accept it as a truism that many on my own side may exaggerate, lie or even be simply out to lunch. In this case I would personally definitely support the Motts strikers, but I don't see the usefulness of lieing and pretending that they achieved an unsullied victory.
Was the Mott's Strike "Victory" Really a Victory?
While organized labor spends close to $100 million to propel Democrats to victory in November, members of the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) Local 220 on Monday won perhaps labor's most important victory of the fall.
The Mott's applesauce plant workers went on strike in Williamson, N.Y., on May 23, after Mott's parent company, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, demanded what amounted to a $3,000 per year wage cut for every worker across the board, as well as cuts in pension and healthcare. Companies and unions across the country were watching the Mott Applesauce Strike as a sign of bargaining trends to come. So Monday's settlement is being seen as a "victory" because it stopped profitable companies from demanding wage cuts.
But was the "victory" at Mott's really a victory? For the first time, Mott's workers were forced to accept a two-tier employee structure -- a system that breaks union solidarity over the long run by pitting new hires against older employees. Under the new system, new hires will not have guaranteed pension plans like current workers, but instead have riskier 401(k) plans. Likewise, the company will decrease its matching payments to all retirement plans as well as force employees to pay health care contributions of 20 percent.
As Stephen Franklin reported last week, Snapple argued that because the average worker in the Williamson area was making $14 an hour, while Mott's workers were averaging $21 an hour, Mott's workers should accept wage cuts because the local area contained so many workers who would work for less. Mott's demanded this despite boasting one of its best annual profits on record last year--$550 million, up from $312 million the year before.
As Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said, "This is the first time a very profitable company has come to us and asked for concessions, and I've been with the union for 23 years."
Yes, the new agreement does "restore" wage levels for current employees. But it also freezes them for three years.
One has to wonder how much of a victory this truly is for labor. At a time when Mott's overall profits are increasing, workers wages' should be increasing. By threatening massive wage cuts, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group was able to force the union to accept small benefit concessions and a two-tier employee system that saves Dr Pepper Snapple money.
The fact that a corporation was able to force these concessions on workers while making record profits is a testament to the weakened state of organized labor, and the desperation of American workers.
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