The start of the new year brings some cause for congratulations and the need to remain vigilant in the face of corporate greed just over the border.
Local 32BJ - Service Employees International Union (SEIU) scored a solid victory for their building service employee cleaning workers just on New Years Eve. They faced down some of the wealthiest and most powerful real estate moguls and corporations in the world, based out of NYC, who were looking, once again to cut workers pay and force them to pay higher contributions for existing benefits. They did this by thoughtful and creative bargaining on the part of Mike Fishman, their President and Brian Doyle, Vice President, with the support of their full union behind them. 32BJ also enjoyed the strong support and the willingness to honor any 32BJ picket lines of the NYC Central Labor Council and their new and actively engaged President, Vincent Alvarez. The NYC Central Labor Council and its membership of key construction and service unions throughout the city, made it abundantly clear to the 1% types that any insult to the building service cleaners was an insult to all NYC workers and that all workers in NYC would stand together to insure a fair deal both for 32BJ and all workers in NYC.
President Alvarez and his new team at the NYC Central Labor Council have made clear that it is no longer business as usual for organized labor. He gave support to Occupy Wall Street, but made sure organized labor played its own role in the protests. He and his team from the NYCCLC were also the organizers of a powerful march down Broadway in NYC, just before the rush of the Christmas shopping season, with thousands of union members from the NYC metro area peacefully filling Broadway from curb to curb - simply to remind those watching that workers may not always scream as loudly as OWS protesters, but they're going to stand together and fight this coming year. Not only will organized labor fight to keep what membership it has, but they will actively reach out and organize new workers every day of every week - year round. Worker Unity is Worker Power.
Up North, in Canada, the news is not as positive, though CAW - the Canadian Auto Workers are still fighting this one out. Workers at Electro-Motive, the second largest locomotive production facility in North America, were locked out by their parent company, Caterpillar , which bought Electro-Motive last year.The CAW was in the midst of ongoing negotiations with the owners. Management didn't want much, just that workers take half their current pay and pay twice as much for their health benefits and end their pensions entirely. Why? Well because Caterpillar had already bullied its workers to the south in Illinois, where they had crushed workers into accepting half as much as the CAW had obtained in Canada. Caterpillar is already manufacturing and selling around the world so the threat of closure on the Canadian plant is real and the likely reason for the lockout and hard-nosed management stance.
These workers smartly returned to work and refused in this case to give Caterpillar any excuse to shut down the plant. Of course the lockout happened anyway after the take it or leave it final offer by management. The CAW is still negotiating and refusing to give in to such outrageous demands simply to further enrich these greedy 1%ers. This is not a fight between American and Canadian workers! This signifies exactly why there must be global labor solidarity and the fight for a living wage must be waged across all borders and all industries.
We stand by these workers and their fight for fairness, honor and dignity in their work and their right to receive a living wage and decent benefits for building and enriching this multinational corporate behemoth.