Corporate War in the Heartland
by Mike Griffin
War Zone Education Foundation
ON JUNE 5 OF LAST year Celanese Emulsions illegally locked out the 150 families of Boilermakers local 484 in Meredosia Illinois. In a continuing war on American workers Celanese, a German based multinational affiliated with National Starch, turned the tranquility of this small Illinois river community of 1100 into a war zone, changing the lives of local residents forever. Instead of negotiating in good faith [the subject of an NLRB charge], Celanese brought in the services of Special Response Team, a Roanoke Virginia based company who specializes in breaking strikes and unions.
Just days before the lockout, Celanese refused to bargain and offered a last and final offer, then issued the lockout notice. On June 28th the two sides met and came close to an agreement, but Celanese had other plans. On July 6th when the two sides met, Celanese offered a regressive package reducing wages by 30%, eliminating the Maintenance Department, reducing vacation time and reneging on issues already tentatively agreed to; an offer no union could accept.
During the course of this dispute, Special Response Team [SRT] thugs have continued a pattern of harassment against the families of local 484, living up to their reputation of "anything goes". SRT goons have expanded their campaign of terror into the community driving through neighborhoods videotaping member's homes and even member's children at play in their yards. Though this activity is illegal, reaction from the local Sheriff's department has been to join forces to with Celanese. A local judge never hesitated in issuing an injunction limiting picketers even though there has been no violence. Authorities have been swift in citing picketers and harassing labor supporters, but have done nothing to stop SRT from disrupting the harmony and sense of community in this small, midwestern town. While Celanese has launched the usual campaign of terror on the entire community, local businesses and Meredosia residents have come together in support of the locked out families.
With support from the International Union strike fund, local 484 is valiantly fighting back. Rank and file members, empowered by savvy local leaders, President Kelly Street and the Executive Board, have hit the ground running. Member organizers have established a "Road Warrior""group to travel the US to raise much-needed funds to support the fight and support families through a food distribution program. Road Warriors carry the message to local unions and community organizations with speakers, literature and a short video. They are organizing strategic rallies to force Celanese back to the bargaining table. This dedicated group also carries the responsibility of forming ongoing support groups in cities throughout North America.
Local 484 has developed an Adopt-A-Family program where local unions, community organizations and individuals can adopt local 484 families to help keep the members in the fight. Each adopted family is required to communicate directly with the adopting organization or individual and must perform union service related to the fightback.
Here's how you can help. Ask your local to give a treasury donation or adopt a family or both! Ask your local or organization to conduct gate collections and job-site donations to support this local in a fight that affects us all. Visit the picket lines and the local hall in Meredosia. Invite a Road Warrior group to speak and show a video at your next meeting. Pass the hat for their expenses and call for a vote for support. Help build ongoing support groups in your community. Call your representatives and demand justice for these locked out workers and their families.
Send a contribution to: IBB Local 484 Solidarity Defense Fund or IBB Local 484 Adopt-A-Family Fund PO Box 258 Meredosia IL 626655.
Contact Local 484: ph 217-584-1916---fax 217-584-1856 or visit their website at: www.boilermakers484.org
While the WarZone Education Foundation is assisting this embattled local, we ask that you send all contributions directly to local 484. You can obtain an official letter from the local requesting support for local 484 and forms for the Adopt-A-Family program.
Mike Griffin Decatur IL