by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Workers struck the Pacific Steel foundry in Berkeley earlier this week. The workers are members of Local 164B of the Glass, Molders, and Pottery Union.
I was able to stop by yesterday and today for a while and talked with some of the workers. From what they told me, production has been pretty much shut down at the company which is a rarity these days as strikes have become little more than 24 hour protests as workers walk ineffective picket lines. More often than not, the strategy of the union hierarchy is to avoid shutting down production in order to ensure that the employers business and profits are not severely affected. The idea is to hopefully get the bosses to agree to slightly milder concessions than they initially ask for.
Workers told me that a major issue was sick leave. As the worker says in the video, the bosses do not recognize Dr’s slips. Money is also an issue but as is normally the case today, disputes or strikes are always defensive battles. Pacific Steel wants workers to work 4 10-hour shifts with no overtime. The piece of paper at the end of the video was a calculation from one of the workers that working four tens without overtime pay would be a cut in wages. In the Waste Management strike here in San Leandro where low waged sorters at the dump walked off the job a few months ago, officials of the Teamsters and the Machinists accused the sorters represented by the ILWU local 6 of too high expectations. They were earning $12 an hour and wanting $20. Even $20 an hour in this area is low waged. The Teamsters leadership told their members to cross the picket lines in that instance citing a dispute over protocol.
Apparently, Pacific Steel’s bosses have told the union they want to talk and most of the workers I talked to said that this is because they are feeling the heat as no work of any significance is being done. So the management and the union are meeting tomorrow morning at 10 am (3-28-15) and a union meeting is scheduled for the following day, Sunday. One worker told me that another impetus for the talks might have been that there is a feeling among some workers that the union is not doing enough and I was told some workers were talking about trying to join another union and that might have pushed the union leadership to get a bit more aggressive.
This occurs frequently when rank and file members feel their union is not doing enough and it happened in mine as well. The problem is that there is no easy way out, no way of avoiding a struggle within our own locals or the present leadership throughout organized labor over policies and the necessity of building militant rank and file opposition caucuses that can change the present concessionary course. The entire trade union leadership no matter which union, is the same when it comes to this as they all support the Team Concept and that we have to compete in order to help our own employers in their struggle with their rivals for market share and profits.