Massive support for locked out US workers

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THOUSANDS joined the United Steelworkers (USW) at a solidarity rally on Saturday in Findlay Ohio to support 1,051 members of Local 207L who have been locked out of their jobs at the Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. since Nov. 28, 2011, when the company refused the union’s offer to remain on the job while negotiations proceeded.

‘Management at Cooper Tire needs to stop holding our jobs and this community hostage, end this unfair lockout, join us at the table and bargain in good faith,’ said USW Secretary Treasurer Stan Johnson, who heads the USW’s tire industry bargaining.

‘The word is out. The unions which represent Cooper Tire facilities around the world are standing with us today.’

Johnson said that Nezavisnost, the Serbian union which represents workers at Cooper’s recently purchased overseas facility, has already demanded that the company end the lockout and pledged support and resources to bring that about; along with Unite the Union, representing workers at Cooper’s Melksham, UK plant which has already been distributing USW-provided literature to its members.

Johnson said that he is proud of the members of Local 207L for standing together during this difficult time and that having the support of our families and friends in the community is essential, especially during the holiday season.

‘Our union knows its strength lies in numbers and the power of unity,’ said USW District 1 Director Dave McCall. ‘Today’s crowd will disperse after the rally, but our strength will continue to grow when people carry the messages and spirit of solidarity with them to share wherever they go.’

McCall said that the union will continue to ramp up pressure to bring Cooper back to the table to negotiate a fair contract in Findlay.

Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga expressed solidarity on behalf of hundreds of thousands of fellow union workers.

‘Cooper Tire’s outrageous, unnecessary and unprovoked attack on the loyal, productive and highly skilled workers in Findlay within days of the Thanksgiving holiday speaks for itself,’ Burga said.

‘The Ohio AFL-CIO shares in your disgust and will continue to stand and fight with the USW in Findlay until justice is restored.’

USW Local 207L President Rodney Nelson said on behalf of the local union officers and negotiating committee that all the members of Local 207L are thankful for the generosity of the community and welcome any challenge ahead with its continued support.

‘We are the community,’ he said. ‘Cooper hasn’t been fair with us at the bargaining table. While the company tries to mislead, confuse and divide people, we stand simply for truth, unity and fairness.’

Nelson said that the current management has lost touch with the principles that built Cooper in Findlay and lack respect for the history of the company in Findlay and the surrounding areas.

The descendants of Cooper founders Claude Hart and John Schaefer, in fact, expressed their support for the locked-out members of USW Local 207L in a letter to The Courier, which they were kind enough to share with the USW.

‘Locking out employees who helped the company during hard times and hiring scab workers to replace them subverts the purpose of collective bargaining, is contrary to good faith practices and is un-American at the core,’ they wrote.

The USW represents about 850,000 working men and women in the United States and Canada in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glass making to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber and other manufacturing environments to the public sector, service and health care industries.

l American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin have announced they are leading an unprecedented public-private partnership to improve educational opportunity and address complex social and economic problems in the Central Appalachia community of McDowell County, W.Va.

Gov. Tomblin and AFT President Randi Weingarten announced the ‘Reconnecting McDowell’ initiative, which includes more than 40 partners in a comprehensive effort that will take place over the next three to five years. Says Weingarten: ‘McDowell County is an American story that deserves a new chapter. Given the challenges, being conventional won’t be good enough. We will be flexible, creative and entrepreneurial, and will take risks.

‘McDowell is the southernmost West Virginia county and has suffered devastating economic and social problems due to the decline of the coal economy in recent decades. 80 per cent of the students in the county’s Anawalt Elementary School meet the state’s definition of poor.’

The Reconnecting McDowell partners have signed a covenant binding their commitment to make education the centrepiece of their efforts – chiefly to develop a well-rounded curriculum and provide support, services and enrichment to the county’s 3,600 students and its teachers.

The project also vows to seek solutions to underlying poverty, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, housing shortages, limited medical services and inadequate access to technology and transportation.

The partnership ‘has the power to change lives for the better in rural West Virginia and inspire other communities throughout the nation to follow suit,’ says Tomblin.

Partners in the project come from business, foundations, government, non-profit agencies and labour, and include Save the Children, Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, DonorsChoose.org, College Board, Cisco Systems, the West Virginia AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers.

Commitments already in place include $150,000 from the AFT Educational Foundation for a six-month planning process; $100,000 from Frontier Communications for online learning projects with Globaloria; and a long-term plan to provide books for every county child by First Book.

Former West Virginia first lady, Gayle Manchin, who now serves as vice president of the state board of education, was a prime mover in creating the partnership. She called the effort ‘impressive,’ and said its expertise will help find creative ways to invest in housing, technology and broadband, transportation, recreation and infrastructure.

The Reconnecting McDowell partnership plans to provide quarterly public updates. As Weingarten told the Washington Post: ‘This is not a photo-op. This is a moral commitment. We’re in the business of making a difference in the lives of people.’