(eng)Oakland Workers Strike Without Union

Ewald (ewald@ctaz.net)
Sun, 08 Dec 1996 00:37:03 -0700

/* Written 11:21 PM Nov 28, 1996 by labornews in igc:labr.newsline */
/* ---------- "Oakland Workers Strike Without Union" ---------- */
From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Oakland Workers Strike Without Union

Stop The Attacks:
Call Stampede Rubber

) Wednesday, November 27, 1996 San Francisco Chronicle
) Unusual Oakland Strike -- Workers Not in Union
) Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle East Bay Bureau
) Some employees at a high-flying Oakland company that
) makes a line of decorative rubber stamps sold in stores
) around the world are in the second week of an unusual
) strike led by female factory workers who felt they were
) being exploited.
) About 140 hourly workers at Rubber Stampede sites in
) Oakland and Emeryville, nearly half the combined staff,
) walked out without warning November 13 after the owner
) refused to talk to them about a new pay plan.
) They feared -- wrongly, company officials maintain --
) that their hourly pay was being cut in favor of a
) piecework system and that they would be forced to work
) twice as fast for the same amount of money.
) Strikes usually happen as a result of contract disputes.
) But the Rubber Stampede workers had no labor agreement
) with their employer. They didn't even have a legal
) representative to do their bidding in labor
) negotiations; in April, International Longshoremen's &
) Warehousemen's Union Local 6 lost an election to be the
) workers' bargaining agent.
) ``They spontaneously walked off their jobs without the
) union being involved,'' said Robert Remar, a lawyer for
) Local 6. ``I've seen it happen, but it's rare,
) especially for this type of workforce, which is highly
) exploited and vulnerable.''
) Most of the strikers are Latinas. Few speak English.
) Most have children. Many are their families' sole
) breadwinners.
) What pushed them over the edge, workers said, was their
) concern that their pay was being cut at a time when they
) felt the company was not doing enough to clear up union
) charges of management interference in the election
) campaign last spring.
) On October 31, the legal staff of the National Labor
) Relations Board's Oakland regional office named Rubber
) Stampede and its parent corporation, Sam's Group Inc.,
) in a complaint alleging that the company coerced workers
) during the organizing drive.
) ``It doesn't mean that any of these things happened,
) only that there's a reasonable cause to believe that
) they happened,'' said Paul Eggert, the board's regional
) attorney.
) A hearing on the complaint has been scheduled before an
) administrative law judge on January 27.
) Samuel Katzen, chief executive officer and primary
) shareholder of Sam's Group, spoke through a labor
) relations consultant, Robert Tiernan, who said the
) workers have got the new pay scheme all wrong.
) With orders backlogged, the company is trying to boost
) production by offering workers extra money for each
) piece they make, Tiernan said. Base pay rates of $6 to
) $8 an hour have not changed, he maintained, and in no
) case would a worker earn less than before the incentives
) were offered.
) Tiernan also said the allegations of coercion are
) groundless, but on the picket line yesterday, workers
) didn't buy it.
) Maria Ramirez, through a translator, Local 6 member
) Blanca Flotte, said company supervisors made threatening
) remarks to her and other workers at the plant on
) Saturday morning. That night, she said, the windows of
) her husband's Pontiac Grand Prix were smashed. The car
) was parked at the couple's home in Oakland.
) Workers and union representatives believe the threats
) and the vandalism were related.
) In a statement filed in connection with the union's
) dispute with the company over alleged labor law
) violations, another striker, Amalia Cerrillo, said a man
) called her home between 11 p.m. and midnight on Saturday
) and said that ``I should be careful because he was going
) to kill me. After that, he laughed very loudly.''
) Workers and sympathizers from Local 6 and the Alameda
) Central Labor Council had picketed Katzen's Berkeley
) hills home earlier that day. The pickets distributed
) leaflets throughout the neighborhood, hoping the action
) would put pressure on Katzen, a former architect who
) started the company in his garage and built it into a
) $25 million-a-year business.
) Company spokesman Tiernan said any threats and
) intimidation that have occurred during the strike have
) been by the union against the company.
) ``I think the union orchestrated the strike,'' he said.
) ``This is all a ploy by the union to coerce the company
) to get them to bargain with them. This is sour grapes. .
) . . It's not going to work.''
) Union leaders said their next step is to boycott stores
) that carry Rubber Stampede kits. They also are
) organizing a second election; they said 180 workers have
) signed cards saying they are interested in having the
) union represent them.
### B O Y C O T T S H E L L ###
greedy murderers and polluters
remember Ken Saro Wiwa and the slaughtered Ogoni
"Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are rather forced
upon them from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long
time been no guarantee of thier security. They do not exist because they
have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have
become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them
will meet with the violent resistance of the populace."

--Rudolf Rocker