Accueil > 08- Livre Huit : ACTUALITE DE LA LUTTE DES CLASSES > Les travailleurs américains face à la crise

Les travailleurs américains face à la crise

lundi 8 décembre 2008, par Robert Paris

mardi passé, quand les boss de Republic Windows & Doors (une compagnie dans le nord de Chicago) annoncent que l’usine devait fermer vendredi, pour des raisons de manque de cash (la Bank of America a racheté la banque avec laquelle la compagnie avait une entente pour 5M$ en aide et a décidé que ça faisait plus son affaire). Dans ces cas-là, y’a le Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, loi datant de 89, qui protège une partie de la classe ouvrière américaine en prévoyant un délai de 60 jours avant qu’un patron puisse mettre la clef dans la porte (peut aussi choisir de payer 60 jours de salaire). Et la loi de l’État de l’Illinois prévoit un 15 jours supplémentaire.
Sauf que les 240 travailleurs et travailleuses de la place n’ont rien eu et ont donc organisé un sit-in, vendredi, qui a viré en occupation. Une rencontre devait avoir lieu avec la banque et RW&D, mais la compagnie ne s’est pas pointée. Les camarades ont affirmé leur volonté de rester jusqu’à ce qu’ils et elles obtiennent, au moins, l’indemnisation prévue par la loi, ou jusqu’à ce que la police les tasse par la force.
Comme si c’était pas assez, y’a un politichien démocrate qui s’en mêle, et, de ce que j’ai cru comprendre, une partie des ouvriers et ouvrières l’encourageait d’un glorieux : “Si se puede” (Yes we can, le slogan de campagne d’Obama).
C’est donc une histoire à suivre, qui servira, je l’espère, à montrer que la solidarité et la combativité sont nos armes face aux temps durs qui s’en viennent.
Des photos de l’occupation de l’usine sont disponibles sur l’Indymedia Chicago.

Travailleurs américains face à la crise

2- Travailleurs américains face à la crise

USA : Chicago Workers Occupy Factory

Tue, 9 Dec 2008.
A Militant Example of the Way Forward for the Labor Movement

Will Soto, Socialist Alternative (CWI US)

Chicago Factory Occupation Leads to Victory

Tue, 16 Dec 2008.
United workers’ struggle fight back to win workers’ interest

Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative (CWI US)

By occupying their plant, and refusing to budge, workers at the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago have provided an inspirational example to workers around the country of how workers can fight and win their demands.

The workers were shocked when they heard that their factory was being closed down. They were outraged when the bosses told them that they’d only have three more days of work. The reason ? Bank of America was cutting off its loans to the window company. This is the same Bank of America that has been handed billions of dollars in government bailouts.

The workers didn’t take it laying down ; they fought back. This can be a lesson for us all. The workers, represented by the United Electrical Workers (UE), reclaimed a strategy that helped to build the labor movement in this country : they occupied the factory. They demanded a good severance package, and they won. This shows the potential power of working people when we’re organized and when we take action.

A workplace occupation poses the question : who’s in charge here ? Management has no power to give orders when workers run the show. In fact, it may have been possible to demand even more than the workers won due to the potential success of this militant tactic. The general population of Chicago and the country expressed a deep sense of sympathy for the workers. In future struggles, this sympathy can be turned into widespread solidarity demonstrations and support networks.

When layoffs and cuts are proposed by corporations and their political servants, working people need to look to the brave example of the Chicago window workers who occupied their workplace and refused to be chased out.

This occupation has sparked discussions among workers across the country on how they too can fight back against cuts. It is essential that union leaders follow the brave example of these Chicago workers. The union leaders need to demand better unemployment benefits and jobs for all in order to organize the unemployed. Instead of funneling trillions of dollars in loans to banks, the unions need to demand a massive public works program to ensure every worker has a job.

To stop layoffs due to factory closures and bankruptcy, it will require that we raise the demand of public ownership under workers’ democratic control and management in order to save jobs. If companies say that they can’t afford to keep paying for good jobs, then we need to get them to open their financial records to the workers’ movement. If they’re telling the truth, then we need to take over the workplaces ourselves.

On the afternoon of Friday, December 5, the roughly 260 workers at Chicago’s Republic Window and Door factory were told that the factory was closing down and that they would be laid off. These workers make up Local 1110 of the United Electrical Workers (UE). They are owed roughly $1.5 million of vacation and severance pay. There are even rumors that some of their most recent paychecks bounced. Merry Christmas indeed.

It doesn’t seem like the company has totally gone belly up. Instead workers think that the company is trying to move production to another state where they can pay lower wages.

They were thinking that they could just shuffle everyone out the door, disregard the laws about giving workers appropriate notice, forget about paying severance and vacation, and close up shop. The workers had a different plan - they took the place over.

Starting on the afternoon of Friday the 5th they began their sit-in. The police came but they left after figuring out the situation and did not try to forcibly remove the workers. The workers are very well organized and the occupation looks disciplined and coordinated. They are occupying the factory around the clock in three shifts. Some workers are sitting in with their families.

Any visitors to the factory floor are escorted and the workers are keeping a close watch on everything. The company has already packed up and moved some of the machinery, but the workers know where it is located and they are checking on it every few hours. Many Chicagoans are helping out with donations of money, food and sleeping bags. They had a rally of several hundred outside the building on Saturday, December 6.

This factory occupation is a welcome break from the trend of factory closures and layoffs that have gone down without much of a fight. It remains to be seen how much the workers will gain as a result of this. The company claims that it can’t afford to pay the workers because Bank of America won’t extend them the credit. Bank of America says that the company’s debts are not its problem. Democrat Congressman Luis Gutierrez is scheduled to meet with the bank and the company on Monday to try and iron out the problems. Workers are justified in their anger against management and the bank. This same Bank of America is among the financial giants who have lined up to receive billions of dollars of federal bailout money. Workers are asking where is our bailout ?

There is no question that these workers’ brave step is a big deal. They deserve the support of all working people and the entire labor movement. Socialist Alternative salutes these workers and supports this occupation. This country has not seen many factory occupations in the last half-century. It was just over 70 years ago in Michigan that the United Auto Workers fought and won the Flint sit down strike of 1936-37. After forty days of bitter struggle they beat the company and inspired a nationwide wave of factory occupations. Certainly many leaders of this factory occupation know this history and they are steeled for the possibility for a long sit-in.

It is important to note the unique history of the independent UE, the union that these workers belong to. This union comes out of the CIO and the radical traditions of industrial unionism of the 1930s. Unlike some of the most corrupt union leaderships, its officials do not get exorbitant salaries. During the 1990s they supported the creation of an independent labor party. The union’s motto is “the members run this union.” The workers democratically voted to occupy this factory.

The UE and the Chicago Labor Council needs to publicly build support for this strike from workers and other unions around Chicago. This heroic action by these workers could be used to revitalize the labor movement in the city, and establish a new tradition of militancy among the working class.

This struggle will be an inspiration to other workers on the need to fightback against cuts and layoffs. The labor movement needs to fight each and every layoff and cutback, explaining that if bailouts and public ownership can be used to protect rich investors, then these same policies need to be used to defend workers.

These workers are united and determined to win all that they can. Victory is hardly guaranteed, but sit-ins and factory occupations are proven tactics used around the world by workers who often have no other recourse against layoffs and closures. Perhaps most importantly, factory occupations are important assertions of workers’ rights to own and run their workplaces. As one of the workers joked on Saturday, “we’ve got a lot, we’ve got this whole building.”

How to support the Republic workers
Contributions are both welcome and needed :
through PayPal : use the "Donate" button on the UE home page
by Mail : UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, UE Western Region, 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607
Send a message to Bank of America demanding they meet the workers demands
For more information, call UE at 312-829-8300.
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57-day Boeing strike bucks takeaway trend
"Fighting Machinists" beat back aerospace giant with tenacity on the picket lines

by Linda Averill

Aug. 31, 2008. Machinists in Everett, Wash., protest lousy contract offer days before going out on strike.
It took 57 days on the picket lines, but 27,000 Machinists in Washington, Oregon, and Kansas, braked a trend of swallowing concessionary contracts, like those that Boeing management had rammed through in 2002 and 2005.

The strike also showed the aerospace giant that the ranks of International Association of Machinists Local 751 have not lost their will or ability to fight. Throughout the strike, new hires stayed strong, with many even making trips to the union hall to pay up their dues.

Public sympathy was also evident, as strikers received honks of support from trucks and cars passing picket lines at plant gates. Teamsters, hotel workers, pilots, stewardesses, and other unions walked the lines in solidarity, as did community groups.

When a contract proposal was finally put to the membership on November 1, some rank-and-filers quickly pulled together a "Vote No" leaflet for distribution. And they racked up 26 percent of the total ballots cast — an impressive show of discontent and willingness to press for more by staying out even longer !

Said one Machinist on a rank-and-file blog, "the verdict is still out on who exactly won the strike, but it has nonetheless given a shot in the arm to a weakening organized labor movement in America."

Boeing goes for the throat. Going into the strike, which began on September 6, Boeing bosses were demanding big take-aways on top of the serious concessions they had already wrung from Machinists in two previous contracts. The 2002 contract opened the door for outsourcing, and the union has hemorrhaged jobs ever since.

In addition to demands for "flexibility" — replacing union jobs with non-union vendors — Boeing wanted to eliminate medical benefits for retirees, replace pensions with 401(k)s for new hires, and widen a multi-tiered wage ladder that leaves bottom-rung members scrambling to supplement meager wages with food stamps.

But the union had prepared for battle. Fully a year ahead of the contract deadline, members were informed about the issues through the union newspaper Aero Mechanic, and shop floor organizing. Many members saved up money for a strike.

Rank-and-filers also organized themselves, marching and rallying at plant sites in the weeks leading up to the strike to build solidarity and resolve.

Machinists hold their line. Boeing lost $1.3 billion during the stoppage, some of which the company planned to recoup after the strike through filling backlogged orders. But as the U.S. economy tanked, and the airline industry softened more, picketers remained determined. And Boeing finally blinked.

In late October, negotiators returned to the table with a proposal minus the concessions that management had earlier demanded. In an era where bosses routinely gut pensions and health care, this is a victory for workers.

Organize the industry ! Still, the union has its Achilles heel, outsourcing. Machinists won protection through the life of the contract for 5,000 Machinist jobs threatened by subcontracting.

Restrictions also exist on Boeing’s use of vendors inside the factory — with the huge exception of its hot-selling airplane, the Dreamliner. This loophole, a holdover from concessions made in 2002, is big enough to drive several forklifts through.

What really stinks is that the Machinists’ leadership helped Boeing secure handsome tax breaks from the Washington State Legislature in 2003. The rationale behind this labor-management collaboration ? It was supposed to keep Boeing and union jobs in Puget Sound.

Let this be a lesson : partnering up with bosses gets workers nothing. Boeing has made its goal perfectly clear — and that is to bust the Machinists union. The strike put a crimp in those plans.

While Boeing hits below the belt, union officials say they have to stick to concessions on the Dreamliner work. To stop the loss of even more jobs from outsourcing, they have "won" the dubious right to bid against their low-wage competition. This is a losing strategy.

A much better solution was put forth by Machinist retiree Henry Noble in the October edition of Northwest Labor Press : remove the incentive to subcontract by organizing the competition !

"The Machinists International should be aggressively organizing in China, Singapore and other places where the jobs are going. Such an international effort would also have the bonus of building solidarity among airplane workers internationally." Let’s raise three cheers for fighting Machinists and organizing the unorganized !


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