WATTS: Welcome, everyone, my name is Dave Watts, I am UPIU Local 7-837 President. I am glad to see you here to discuss the problem of winning a fair contract. Today, we are facing one of the hardest struggles for our rights and freedoms. I insist that now, after several years of fighting, the union has a strategy to win a fair contract. Today, we cannot stop and give up our struggle against the injustice and we should continue fighting for our rights as employers. This is more than just a talk, this is the way we should protect our dignity, our safety and our families. For two years we have been locked out and we should not let it happen again. The labors are right, Tale Lyle does not treat as for people (Deadly Corn), they implemented unacceptable labor politics and completely ignored all environment regulations (Deadly Corn). They introduced a 12 hour working day and they do not thing about the labors’ safety. I argue that we should not get back to work until the fair contract is signed.
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GOSS: Hello, I am Glen Goss, the UPIU Vice President. I completely support the fact that Tale and Lyle operate unfairly and put on workers very harsh conditions of working. Moreover, I do agree with Watts that the employees suffer from these conditions and urgent actions should be taken to change the situation. However, the previous experience shows that the fair contract is impossible at present moment and the company does not show any signs to sign it. As watts said, the employees have been locked out for two years and one cannot guarantee that something will change. What we need is to work-to-rule and accept company’s demands.
WATTS: It would be a good idea if we could be sure that those demands will be acceptable for workers. However, these days, we do not see the other way, but the organize strikes and stand out for our rights. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the company did not pay any attention to all cases of injury. There are hundred evidences from workers when people died because of the bad organization of the process. Remember when Jim Beals died because of the toxic gas. He could be saved, but there were no oxygen balloons and there was no necessary medical help (Deadly Corn). If we want to work in safe conditions, we should insist on significant changes that should be included into the fair contract. The city council, which is ignorant to the needs of community and ignore organize the labors, should be involved into the issue. (Struggle in the Heartland). This is the first step to be taken to win strikes and lockouts.
GOSS: This is the idea I also support. But, there is a question that arises from your speech, does the AFL-CIO leadership have a sustainable plan of actions and strategies to win those strikes and lockouts. The first thing that we should take into consideration is the common practices of Staley. (Ashby and Hawking 259). These practices include expansion of overtime work, burning without permission, inexperienced people take positions and supervisors who have not any background in corn milling (Deadly corn). Those issues should be definitely addressed. But the community does not have its safety chairman and unity does not care about company people. The main strategy to win strikes and lockouts it to pay more attention to the organization of the unity, first of all.
WATTS: Obviously, but the U.S. labor law does not give us full power and some of its issues does not give us an opportunity to protect out rights I believe. Well, let us take such fact as when workers engaged in a National Relations Board, the strikes over employer are illegal (Ashby and Hawking 313). What we can do to overcome this problem?
GOSS: Well, first of all, you should not say that US labor law is completely unsupportive. As I have already emphasized, we should accept our actions with the company’s demands and we need new ideas and directions, we should correlate our actions with the US labor law and understand that it is designed not only pressure union leaders (Ashby and Hawking 178), but direct our actions so that they were correspondent to the locals’ actions. We need new in-plan decisions.
WATTS: I would argue this point. In 1993, when we were facing the decline in productivity and rising worker resistance, but, at this moment, the company regrouped to attack over union more. This fact makes me think that we should create a more creative form of resistance (Ashby and Hawking 67). The national situation that we faced and actually facing today – I mean the racial division – is what we should overcome. We must be determined to create new strategy (here I accept your point of view) and it lies in the fact that we should stick together because only workers understand the struggle of other workers (The Gathering Storm). Another point is that company’s aspiration to reach global strategy and increase profit influences negatively on the conditions in which employees work (it results in lower wages and demanding work conditions, such as longer working day).
GOSS: Yes, but we should understand that a labor movement should constantly evaluate itself and correct its faults (Ashby and Hawking 2). And the only form that our union accepts now is the civil disobedience. This is what you call upon indeed. It is not the best tactic. Did we achieve success at the Staley gates?
WATTS: The civil disobedience, from my point of view, is the only way to win the fair contract. The leaders should see that people will not give up and that their demands should be implemented. However, the result that we had no success is obvious. But the reason is that the leadership only talked about the strategy and there were no any practical decision. Moreover, there was no unity. I repeat one more time that we should “be together” (Ashby and Hawking 182). What we need is to corporate multinational campaigns on order to look for new ways to fight back (Ashby and Hawking 10). And pressure the company to adopt a fair contract, it is the only way to create a strong competitive edge to defeat the Tale and Lyle and achieve our aim (Ashby and Hawking 41). Moreover, we should not give up our struggle and we should make Staley understand that our campaign for rights will not end until they accept a fair contract (“Union Rejects Concessionary Pact”).
GOSS: Really, it is a good strategy and it can help creating strong resistance to the company. But I would like to add that we should think about educating, uniting and mobilizing the membership. People should understand the aims and the strategies, it should not be a chaotic fight, and there should be an agreement in purposes, actions and goals. We should make an educated plan of the way the union should operate: the officers should take care of the members of the community and educate them about the worker’s rights (Ashby and Hawking 211). Thus, it will be easier to find a compromise that later can result in a fair contract. However, I would like to recollect the experience of the 1986, when “educated” members of the union only add aggression to the company’s managers and nothing has changed. I want to say one more time. We will not have better conditions, until we not find the agreement between company’s and workers’ demands.
WATTS: I believe that a controlled democracy is what we need in such case to foster the fight for the new American labor movement.
GOSS: But we cannot deal without the union bureaucracy. Of course, it is a problem that should be solved.
WATTS: I believe that the main idea that we should focus on is organization of the social movement unionism and not business unionism. We should fight for fair wages and work conditions. The workers should believe in their working rights are their civil rights and social movement unionism should be focused, first of all, on these civil right and social rights of the workers. As the business unionism is focused on the achieving of the financial profit of the organization. Let us not forget that the aim of our community is to improve our working conditions. So, first of all, we should think about attracting locals to social issues. There should not be lockouts, for this purpose, we should make unionism our prime preoccupation.
GOSS: Logically, but both workers and management of the company should learn something from each other as the financial profit of the company depends on the social and economic stability of its workers. Today, there is no understanding between community and managers, but I emphasize that we can stuck nowhere if we will not find agreement, the fight should be resolved as soon as possible. The workers should also think about the benefits that the company can give them and try to promote the business through the business unionism. Thus, there is another education aim of the community. It suggests that leaders should explain the benefits that people can gain from the financial profit of the company. I do not mean that workers should sacrifice themselves, I mean that the ways for collaboration of the company with its workers should be worked out. The negotiations and not fifths are our major preoccupation.
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WATTS: There cannot be any negotiations until the company accepts our idea of a fair contract.
GOSS: But for the fair contract, we should understand the problems of economy of the national and local level. The labor union did nothing but confront to accept the management side, this is why, we are the one who cannot win the fair contract.
WATTS: But, what would you say about building a national solidarity campaign with other unions? Do you think this is useless and will not help as in winning a fair contract? Obviously, different communities have different aims. Can we achieve success implementing such strategy?
GOSS: Certainly we can. Moreover, we are obliged to unite our forces. But the problem is that management does not listen to those groups and communities. So, we should agree with the company’s demands and then, gradually, we will be able to introduce our aims when managers and company leaders will see that we are ready for negotiations and they will accept our position.
Ashby, Steven K., C. and J. Hawking. Staley: The Fight for a New American Labor Movement. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
Dan Lane at the AFL-CIO Convention. University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Web.
Deadly Corn. University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Web. .
Struggle in the Heartland. University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Web.
The Gathering Storm. University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Web.
“Union Rejects Concessionary Pact”. News from the war Zone. 4.2 (1995): n. pag. Web.