(eng)The Militant vol.61/no.2 "On The Picket Line"

Ewald (ewald@ctaz.net)
Sun, 12 Jan 1997 05:38:49 -0700

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{`On The Picket Line' column} ********************************************************************* from the Militant, vol.61/no.2 January 13, 1997

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. ***********************************************************

AKRON, Ohio - Five hundred striking hospital workers and their supporters rallied in front of Akron City Hospital December 14 to protest Summa Health System's union-busting tactics. Among the supporters were auto workers, truck drivers, carpenters, members of the Million Man March, Inc., and friends and neighbors of the hospital workers. The crowd sang and chanted, "No union; no peace!" and "684!"

Members of Local 684 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees walked out of the hospital and set up picket shacks and burn barrels on November 8. The union represents 480 workers in non- professional jobs, ranging from medical nursing aides to dietary and maintenance workers.

According to Larry Stump, one of the strike coordinators, Summa insisted on the "sole, exclusive, non- reviewable right to reassign work sites and shifts." He also said the company wants to use part-time workers and nonunion subcontractors to do work performed by union members.

Summa Health System operates Akron City Hospital and St. Thomas Hospital in Akron. There is no union representing workers at St. Thomas. The last contract with Local 684 at Akron City expired in November 1995.

The Akron Beacon Journal quoted Trudy Kapper, vice president for community relations for Summa Health System, stating, "We have an offer on the table and this is the contract we would like [the strikers] to agree to."

Carolyn Wilcher, a 44-year-old pharmacy technician with 25 years at the hospital, described her experience with the extra security guards hired by Summa to patrol the picket lines. "They come up to us at night and shine flashlights and video cameras in our faces and use abusive language to try to intimidate us," she said. "Some of them walk around with rottweilers. Most of us on strike are women, so I asked my husband to join me on the line."

"Summa is about profits, not patient care," said Pat Austin, a 39-year-old housekeeping worker. "They're buying other hospitals and they want to keep the union out. It's cheaper to get rid of us. I'm confident the union can win a contract. That's why I'm here." Grocery workers strike in Maryland WASHINGTON, D.C.-Three hundred and twenty members of Teamsters Local 639, based in Landover and Jessup, Maryland, struck Giant Food Inc. December 15 to win a new contract. The striking drivers deliver goods from the company's warehouse and production facilities to the 174 stores in the Giant chain.

Shortly after the strike began thousands of Teamster members employed at Giant's baking and processing center and warehouses in Landover and Jessup agreed not to cross the truckers' picket line. Giant then shut down these operations December 18 for the duration of the strike, idling an additional 2,200 workers.

At the heart of the dispute is union opposition to company plans to outsource deliveries. Giant insists on hiring nonunion drivers to deliver food shipments to some of its stores.

The company also wants to impose a concessionary wage package similar to what workers at Safeway were forced to accept last summer. At the time, Safeway, another supermarket chain, threatened to close its distribution warehouse in Landover and move to another state if workers did not accept its demands.

Giant wants to impose a similar freeze on truck drivers' wages for the next five years. The company has argued in full-page ads taken out in major area newspapers that it must have parity, as it claims to always have had, with the contract in effect at Safeway.

The strikers have been picketing some of the Giant stores and are discussing expanding the walkout to companies hired to supply Giant during the strike.

"I saw the strikers and I didn't want to cross the picket line," stated shopper Pat Victor, 37, of Stafford, Virginia. "When people cross the picket line, it gives management more power. It takes a lot for somebody to go on strike."

Officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 27 and 400 say they are considering whether to encourage local members to honor the Teamster picket lines. Some 20,000 UFCW members are employed at jobs inside Giant stores. As of Christmas, the UFCW international had not sanctioned honoring the truckers' picket lines. Sun Oil announces layoffs in Pennsylvania MARCUS HOOK, Pennsylvania - On December 4, Sun Oil Co., the second largest independent U.S. refiner, announced a "competitive improvement plan" that would lay off 235 employees at its Marcus Hook refinery. The proposed layoffs come on top of cuts at the company's Point Breeze refinery and threats to close that facility if profitability doesn't improve by mid-1997.

The layoffs would affect operators hired as far back as 1985, and encompass more than a third of the unionized employees. The Marcus Hook refinery has a total hourly workforce of 672, represented by Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Local 8-901. So far all the proposed cuts are among the unionized workforce.

"The current staffing is out of line with industry standards," said Sun spokesperson Bud Davis. "Secondly, we've just completed a modernization and upgrading of the major units at the refinery and incorporated a number of technological advances and we have simplified the operations."

John Rossi, the refinery manager, said the cuts would not affect output. In a meeting with employees, Rossi said the company needs more supervisors and more discipline. In a letter of intent handed to union officials before the meeting, the company delineated that the "competitive improvement plan" included the elimination of the chief operator job classification.

The Marcus Hook refinery has a chief operator on each of its units who is responsible for the running of the unit, writing permits, and overall decision making about the unit's functioning. During the 1996 contract negotiations, the company attempted to eliminate this classification, but was unsuccessful. Sun is demanding other work rule concessions regarding permit writing, running maintenance, and other practices.

Union members have responded with outrage to the proposed layoffs. "We've got to fight. This is just the start," said Bob McGurk, a maintenance worker at the refinery. "They'll do more."

Many expressed concern over the safety of the refinery with such a reduced work force.

At an impromptu rally held at the main gate of the refinery on December 18, union officials and over 200 union members protested the company proposals. "They want one supervisor for every 3.8 operators and one supervisor for every 2.7 maintenance workers," said OCAW international representative Art Wilson.

The Sun refinery is located across the street from the former BP refinery, now owned by TOSCO Corp., the no. 1 independent refiner in the United States. Sun is attempting to drive through some of the same work rule changes that TOSCO carried out when it forced OCAW 8-234 to accept a concession contract under threat of closing the facility. After a ten-month lock out, the company hired back whoever it wanted, disregarding seniority. Mike Fitzsimmons, member of United Auto Workers Local 420 in Cleveland; Brian Williams, member of United Steelworkers of America Local 2609 in Sparrows Point, Maryland; and Kathy Mickells and Connie Allen, members of OCAW Local 8-901 at the Marcus Hook Sun Oil refinery in Pennsylvania, contributed to this column.

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