April 21st, 2012
"Unions are not obsolete," was said by one of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) miners upon returning to work in Boron, California last May, after a brutal 4 month lock-out by Rio Tinto - a huge global mining conglomerate, against several hundred workers in their Boron Borax mining facility.
The film, "Locked Out," Produced and Directed by the talented Joan Sekler, details how even in this moment of downturned economy and historically low levels of union membership, that when workers unite and stay focused, while using all the tools of current technology and media to spread their message of resistance - they can still stop a vicious anti-union company like Rio Tinto in its tracks.
These ILWU miners formed relationships and support networks both within the local community - so during tough times they had neighbors watching their backs. They also sought help from brother and sister unions all over the region and the country - who came to demonstrate, to donate food and funds and ultimately let Rio Tinto know that even though they might use scabs to pull some of the Borax out of the mine - the filled containers were not going to go on any ships if the company did not come to the table.
Ultimately, workers who had taken the union for granted for almost forty years, were reawakened to the necessity and value of having a really strong union at their job. As this worker said, he'd always looked on the ILWU as just another job related bureaucratic structure, but he was damn happy they were their when the trouble went down. He was sure he would never take his union for granted again.
Of course some compromises were made - and this is not a completely happy ending - but we need to keep organizing, keep building our support systems, use our networks, our culture, our media - collaborate with OWS folks, local townspeople - then we'll be on the right road to worker power that can totally stop any anti-worker, anti-union company in its tracks.
Thanks to Joan Sekler for a fantastic film. I hope you get to see it during our Workers Unite Film Festival, coming May 4,5,6 in NYC.