Steelworkers and Brazilian Union Picket Huhtamaki

Huhtamaki photo 8By Ben Davis, United Steelworkers, Pittsburgh

Union members and employees of Huhtamaki North America picketed outside the company’s Waterville plant today (Wednesday) in an effort to draw attention to their inability to come to terms with the paper goods manufacturer on a new contract.

A dozen members of the Steelworkers Local 449 United Steelworkers Union picketed between shifts beginning Wednesday morning. Wearing shirts bearing the word “solidarity” and other pro-union logos, the pickets displayed signs demanding a “fair contract.”

Rank and file union members say they have been without a contract for about two years. Lynne Hancock, a Pittsburgh-based spokeswoman for the Steelworkers, said the issues in the dispute are wages, health benefits and whether employees would receive retroactive pay for the period that began when the previous contract expired.

“An agreement was reached in July on most language issues with the contract,” Hancock said.

Huhtamaki employs about 360 union workers at its sprawling complex on the Waterville-Fairfield municipal boundary.

The Waterville plant is one of 15 manufacturing plants operated by the Finland-based company in the United States. Five of the company’s installations are represented by the United Steelworkers, Hancock said.

Best known for its Chinet brand of disposable tableware, Huhtamaki manufactures a variety of disposable paper products at its Waterville plant. The company began operations in Waterville as Keyes Fiber in 1908.

The firm was sold to a Dutch concern, which was later acquired by Huhtamaki.

Huhtamaki photo 4Meanwhile in Brazil, workers in Sindiquimica, Bahia, affiliated to the CNQ union in Brazil  stopped work at Huhtamaki for three hours in solidarity with workers in the Huhtamaki workers in the USA this morning.

Their banner reads: “Solidarity and Support for the Struggle Against Precarious Work at Huhtamaki in the USA”

A Huhtamaki spokesman could not be reached for comment on the labour dispute.

The supportive action reflects other recent actions by unions with members in Huhtamaki, the Finnish paper products company. The company in in its home country works with unions – as it does in other EU countries – but is taking an increasingly hard line with the United Steelworkers in the USA, which is now proving the norm with many European companies who oppose union organisation and collective bargaining in their US plants.

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Selective Strikes, Work-To-Rule KOs EDF In UK

UnknownBy Dick Blin
For the Utility Workers Of America

Unite the Union and 500 meter fitters and meter engineers won respect and handsome pay gains in a highly coordinated campaign that forced big French energy company EDF to ante up at the table. The French energy giant also operates more than 100 renewable energy plants in the U.S., plus a 49% stake in three nuclear plants in Maryland and New York.

From May to July this year, unionized staff at over 20 worksites across the southern part of Great Britain, including London, used escalating and rolling strikes, as well as job-protected actions short of striking to secure adequate backdated 2013 pay gains.

The agreement also holds EDF accountable over changes to the 2012 collective agreement, changes meant to bridge the pay differential gap between southeast utility workers and those in London. EDF had been ducking that issue.

The workers install and repair meters, and they are front-line EDF theft detection employees. In city after city – from Plymouth to Bristol to Exeter to Bexleyheath in Kent (and London) – they received sympathy and support from the public due to EDF’s inflation-beating electric rate hikes.

The company’s early summer pay offer, however, fell far short of inflation. EDF sought a consolidated 2013-14 pay offer of 2% plus a miniscule £20 one-off payment to each worker. The company’s rejected offer also would have short changed staff of the eastern revenue protection team.

Following the job actions, EDF increased the offer significantly and a mediated resolve came in early August. The 2% increase becomes retroactive to April 2013.

The one-off payment was increased to £480 per worker, and EDF agreed to begin bargaining on a 2014 pay deal immediately. A vastly improved deal was also given the eastern revenue team that means full earnings count as salary, and not a proportion of “additional payments.”

A Unite the Union representative said the disciplined job actions translate to a wake-up call for EDF, one that most definitely will extend into 2014 talks.

See Unite’s ‘Great Pay Victory’ article here.

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United Steelworkers Convention 2014

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Steelworkers Fight For Union Rights At Huhtamaki

huhtamakiNote: The following opinion piece was written by a single mother of two children who fears losing her job. For this reason her name has been withheld. The United Steelworkers in the USA are fighting to secure union recognition at the company site in Commerce, California. This blog first appeared on the Capital & Main site.

“What does “Made in America” mean to you? For consumers, it means a quality product. For workers, it means a good paying job and an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Yet “Made in America” can also stand for opportunity to exploit workers under harsh conditions and unfair wages. That’s what it means in the manufacturing plant where I work in Commerce.

I’ve worked three years for Huhtamaki, a Finnish-owned packaging manufacturer located in the Los Angeles area. We make ice cream containers and other products for Walmart. And the job, it’s just not what people are talking about when they talk about investing in new manufacturing jobs in our country.

As a single mother of two, making ends meet is hard. My paycheck barely covers my bills and I rely on Section 8 assistance to pay my rent.

When I first started at Huhtamaki, I loved my job. While I still go every day to support my children, there is no future and no financial security that I can build through this job. My colleagues, like me, are struggling to get by on our low wages while the cost of living continues to rise. Our plant is unbearably hot — I have seen a co-worker faint in the heat.

My daughter is young, and I work hard so she will never have to work at a place like this, so she can have a job with dignity. My parents taught me to work hard and to do my job well. I want to set the same example for my children.

Good jobs don’t pay poverty wages. Made in America shouldn’t mean being forced to work in conditions that have resulted in workers fainting and managers threatening workers; yet this is what too many American manufacturing workers face every day.

This week, as Walmart hosts a U.S. Manufacturers’ Summit, where its public face will show support for American manufacturing and American workers, I think it’s important to consider what kind of jobs we’re really talking about. While it is important that we bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, it is just as important that we ensure that the jobs that come back are ones that we can be proud of – and that means jobs that pay enough for workers to support their families.

We need jobs that pay a decent wage and allow workers the right to collectively bargain for benefits and better conditions. We need jobs where hard work is recognized and rewarded. Finally, we need jobs that let us provide for our children, and jobs that will let them build their lives when they’re grown.

As CEOs attending Walmart’s Summit  discuss the future meaning of “Made in America,” I hope they remember that labels and slogans don’t equal the American Dream, and that not all American jobs are created equal.

We can make that dream a reality, but only if manufacturing corporations like Huhtamaki and super retailers like Walmart understand that it’s a good paying job that is the value that Americans have in mind when they think about the investment in manufacturing. The creation of more low-paying jobs that keep us struggling is nothing to hold up for recognition.”

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Honeywell Workers Locked Out (Again) In Metropolis

Lockout Fact SheetThe giant US multi-national company Honeywell has once again locked out its workforce,members of the United Steelworkers at it plant in Metropolis, USA.

USW local 7-669 has 150 members at the plant, which processes uranium and they work around many extremely dangerous and deadly chemicals.

The company is demanding changes to working contracts and the use of contractors to replace permanent staff.

Honeywell had previously locked out its workforce in June 2010 – once again we have a multi-national attacking workers in an effort to break their union.

So how can you help?

USW Local 7-669 is a strong local (branch) but you can help them by doing the following:

Visit their website by clicking here.

Follow them on Twitter @USW7669

Visit the Facebook Page by clicking here 

Sign their petition by clicking here

Send messages of support to the local via Patrick Young at pyoung@usw.org.

Print out the flyer and circulate or repost on your sites etc.

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Banging Out : Fleet Street Remembered

This brilliant film was launched at St Brides, the printers church on the 16th July 2014 and is being shown at libraries, schools and archives across London. It tells the story of the printing industry on Fleet Street in London, the one time centre of the UK’s newspaper industry.

To visit the website and for more information on the film click here.

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United Steelworkers Convention, August 12th.

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USW Convention Las Vegas – August 12th

USW-Update-tuesday_Page_2

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Swaziland PM’s Threat Against Union Leader

Vincent Ncongonwe the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA)

Vincent Ncongonwe the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA)

What would we do if David Cameron threatened at Prime Minister’s Question Time to strangle the TUC’s Frances O’Grady? 

That’s what happened in Swaziland last week. Facing pressure from MPs about the suspension of benefits from the USA under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini threatened Vincent Ncongonwe the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), and a prominent human rights activist with ‘strangulation’ on their return from a civil society meeting in Washington DC.

Please help us protest at the outrageous threat made by Swaziland’s Prime Minister against Vincent Ncongwone, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

Details are set out in a blog by the TUC’s Owen Tudor at the TUC’s Stronger Unions site by clicking here. 

You can read Frances O’Grady’s letter to the Swaziland High Commissioner by clicking here.

Or you can just go straight to the LabourStart e-action and tell the Swazi regime – Africa’s last feudal dictatorship – to withdraw the threat.

Please encourage as many people in your union to raise awareness of this remarkable and appalling outburst, and take the LabourStart action. Over 2,000 people have already done so.

Read also the AFL-CIO’s response to this disgraceful threat.

Read the full report of what this feudal dictator said in the Times of Swaziland and the response from the union by clicking here.

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National Demonstration For Gaza

pv84_9augustnationaldemographic_1Where: Outside BBC HQ, Portland Place, London marching to Hyde Park via US Embassy

When: Assemble at 12 noon, August 9th

The latest figures from UN OCHA are sickening – at least 1,849 Palestinians killed, with more still be recovered from the rubble of destroyed buildings.

373,000 children needing psycho-social care due to the trauma.

And 65,000 displaced people have had their homes destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Pressure is mounting on the UK Government over its silence over Israel’s massacre in Gaza, and the arms trade.

In the last few weeks, we’ve already marched twice through the streets of London, with 100,000 people.

All round the country, PSC branches have organised demonstations, protests and vigils.

Politicians have been deluged with complaints from voters, calling for action to stop Israel’s massacre.

Over 60,000 PSC supporters used one of our e-tools to write to their MP.

This pressure is already making a real difference. Labour leader Ed Miliband has said the government must oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza, and called Prime Minister David Cameron’s silence ‘inexplicable’.

On 5th August, Baroness Warsi, the senior Foreign Office minister, resigned from the government, saying its ‘approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible’.

Now, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has called for an arms embargo if the ceasefire doesn’t hold.

The BBC has even agreed to air the Disaster Emergency Appeal (DEC).

However, a BBC reporter admitted on the Today Programme Israel admitting that Gaza is a ‘humanitarian disaster’ was a key part of the BBC’s decision to run the appeal.

The pressure is being felt – and now is the time to turn up the heat. Let’s make this a massive show of support for Palestine.

Twitter hash tag #GazaA9

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