OVER a thousand workers in the Massachusetts labour movement rallied for 27 striking Clear Channel Billboard Workers on April 19th.
Present at the rally were Labour leaders, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Democratic State Committee Chair John Walsh, State Representative James Eldridge and others standing with 25 Members of IUPAT DC 35 Local 391 and 2 Members of IBEW Local 103.
On Monday March 19th, after over two years of stalled negotiations with Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising, 25 members of the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35 Local 391 were forced out on strike.
Since that time two IBEW Local 103 members have joined the strike.
Rather than accept significant cuts in wages, benefits and working conditions, the union members have taken the fight to Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising.
Exactly one month later, on April 19th by company headquarters in Stoneham over 1,000 union leaders, members, retirees, community allies and political figures attended one of the largest, most passionate and most impressive labour rallies in recent memory.
Since March 19th these union brothers and sisters have been walking the picket line in a show of impressive solidarity at the Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising company headquarters at 89 Maple Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
They remain on the line seven days a week and that is where they were given this support.
Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Democratic State Committee Chair John Walsh, State Representative James Eldridge, Revere City Councillor George Rotondo, and Melrose Alderman and IBEW Local #103 member Ronald Seaboyer all joined labour leaders and the thousand-person-strong crowd in emboldening the strikers that they are not alone and that they have incredible support in labour, government and the community from which they can draw strength and assistance throughout their struggle.
Ralph Harriman, Business Manager of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35 emceed the rally, kicking it off by saying, ‘There might be 27 families on the street, but this amazing crowd proves they’re not alone.’
Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray was the first speaker, saying, ‘I’m proud to join so many union members to support these workers and their families.
‘During the campaign and in this Administration we all talked about shared prosperity.
‘While CEO salaries have soared hundreds of per cent, workers have not shared in that prosperity fairly.
‘We want to say that we’re proud of you for standing up for shared prosperity and we want this company to do the right thing. Keep it up.’
Representative James Eldridge offered his support, exclaiming, ‘I stand here in solidarity with you in your fight against Clear Channel.’
Representative Eldridge read a letter he wrote to Steve Ross, Clear Channel CEO, demanding fair treatment of these workers and an end to this strike.
Representative Eldridge then announced he had undertaken efforts to get his political colleagues to boycott Clear Channel billboards during this strike.
Democratic State Committee Chair John Walsh told the rally, ‘In Massachusetts when the Democratic Party and organised labour stick together we always win.
‘You have friends and allies at the Democratic Party and we’re with you in this fight and all your fights in the future.’
Labour leaders were there in full force. Here’s what they had to say.
Michael Monahan, Business Manager of IBEW Local 103 said: ‘Eventually you have to make the tough decision to take a stand and say we’re not going to take it anymore.
‘Union busting is a sport to these companies, to this company, but make no mistake about it we will beat them at this game.’
Rich Rogers, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labour Council said: ‘There’s well over 25 local unions and a thousand people here in solidarity.
‘We’re facing a corporate giant. They want to come and union bust in our home and we’re not going to let them.’
Sean O’Brien, President of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 25, gave some rousing remarks from the stage his local provided.
He said; ‘We’re in a war in this Labour Movement with Corporate America and companies like Clear Channel.
‘There’s a bully in every school yard and there’s only one way to beat a bully – you take the fight right to them.’
Frank Callahan, President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council said: ‘Wages, hours, and working conditions – that’s what we’re about, what we’ve always been about.
‘I pledge to you that these 27 workers can count on the 75,000 workers in the building trades to stand with you and fight with you for as long as it takes.’
George Rotondo, Revere City Council, pledged, ‘We’re not going to let Corporate America take our jobs. We’re going to fight them from city halls to Beacon Hill and beyond.’
In a statement about this strike Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes praised these commendable trade unionists: ‘The 25 striking Painters and 2 IBEW members are not striking for just themselves; they are not just 27 workers fighting Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising.
‘They represent a courageous and necessary fight against the corporate greed that has stricken this country.
‘They are standing up against the Corporate America’s villainous role as the Benedict Arnolds of economic patriotism.
‘These workers are exposing the anti-American, force the workers to the bottom gang, while gluttonous corporate executives enjoy an unprecedented race to the top attitude of today’s corporate behemoths.
‘I thank these workers for having the courage to stand up for themselves and for all workers.
‘I pledge to them that they are not alone.
‘The entire Labor Movement is with them in this fight for as long as it takes to get the fair wages, benefits and working conditions they deserve.’
The rally concluded with Chuck Fogell, Business Agent for the Local 391 members, bringing the strikers up in front of the crowd so everyone could see the faces of these brave trade unionists.
‘Then a mass of people made their way to a bin for donations to support the workers.
Ralph Harriman closed the rally, saying, ‘No union. No contract. No billboards. Bottom line.’