Craig Merrilees is communications director at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Over 200 Oakland recycling workers staged a powerful show of unity and action by striking on Tuesday, July 30. Employees from the City’s two recycling contractors – Waste Management and California Waste Solutions (CWS) – walked off their jobs midway through the morning shift.
Then, instead of picketing in remote industrial areas where the recycling plants are located, workers formed caravans that converged downtown at Oakland’s City Hall. The result was a full day of political action and solidarity that included marches, “human billboards” along Broadway and 14th Streets, visits with local and state elected officials, and a spirited rally.
Hundreds of Waste Management workers belonging to the ILWU struck three facilities Friday morning, March 15, shutting down the company’s East Bay operation in for five hours. The successful job action was made possible by the support from hundreds of Teamster members who honored picket lines and refused to drive the company’s trucks that collect refuse and recycling early each morning from residential and industrial customers. Additional support came from members of the Machinists Union who honored picket lines by refusing to report for their maintenance and repair jobs during the strike.
Four hundred and fifty ILWU office clerical workers ended their one-week strike on December 4th after securing new protections against the outsourcing for good jobs that support working families in the Southern California harbor community.
The tentative agreement – subject to membership ratification – includes significant new protections that will make it much harder for jobs to be outsourced to Texas, Taiwan and other locations around the globe.
For more than 50 years, members of ILWU Local 6 have worked at a liquor bottling plant in Menlo Park that packages some of America’s best-known drinks, including Johnny Walker, Hennessy, Jose Cuervo, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan – plus Guinness and Red Stripe beerand wine labels Rosenblum Cellars, Blossom Hill, Sterling Vineyards, Chateau and Estates, & Moet Chandon. Diageo is the British-based corporation behind all these and other brands.
The company says they make most of their money selling liquor in the United States and reported profits last year of $2.5 billion. But this week, they announced their decision to close the Menlo Park bottling plant, which will destroy 150 jobs – 128 of whom are members of Local 6. Diageo has other union-represented facilities in the East and Midwest, but hasn’t confirmed exactly where West Coast production would occur if the Menlo Park plant is closed.
500 Rite Aid workers at the company’s massive Southwest Distribution Center in Lancaster declared victory on Sunday, May 1 in their five-year effort to form a union and improve working conditions. Workers signed a 3-year tentative agreement with management – subject to a May 12 ratification vote – that will improve conditions at the million-square-foot facility in California’s high desert.
“We’re excited about winning this victory, even if it took longer than it should have,” said Carlos “Chico” Rubio, a 10-year warehouse worker who helped negotiate the union contract with eight of his co-workers. Employees decided to form their union in March of 2006 after contacting the ILWU. Within months, Local 26 President Luisa Gratz was helping workers address problems with indoor heat and production standards. Unfortunately, Rite Aid began aggressively interfering with the workers’ freedom to organize.
On April 1, hundreds of supporters demonstrated in front of the Rite Aid drugstore in San Pedro and dozens of others around the country to protest the company’s eroding labor policies that hurt working families.
The protest helped launch a “pinpoint’ boycott of two Rite Aid stores in San Pedro. Last year these two stores were patronized by union families who filled 17,000 prescriptions worth almost $2 million. The boycott is limited – for now – to the two San Pedro stores, and customers are being referred to other UFCW union pharmacies in the community. Customers will resume their business at the San Pedro Rite Aid stores once the company agrees to respect workers.
During the past few years, Rite Aid executives made bad business decisions that caused serious financial problems at the country’s third-largest drugstore chain. But instead of working with employees to move forward together in challenging times, Rite Aid execs are trying to make the company's loyal and hard-working employees pay for management's mistakes.
With support from the AFL-CIO, United Students Against Sweatshops and Jobs with Justice, Rite Aid workers are calling on union supporters to join with community and student allies to participate in a National Day of Action on December 15th.
On May 15th, 570 families at Rio Tinto’s massive mine in Boron, CA won their hard-fought struggle to break a 15-week lockout and protect good jobs. By a 75% margin, ILWU Local 30 members approved a new contract with guaranteed raises, a $5,000 bonus, protection for full-time jobs, retention of seniority, and removal of all scabs from their workplace.