Report on Stella D'Oro Picket

Image courtesy of Micah Landau

Image courtesy of Micah LandauOn Wednesday, March 11, 2009, more than 150 Stella D’Oro strikers and their supporters rallied at the factory at 3:00 PM.  Stella D’Oro workers have been on strike since August 2008.  The company made demands that would end their pensions, make workers pay for much of their health care, and cut wages and other benefits.  The company, Brynwood Partners, a private equity firm, wants to eliminate this union and have a low paid, “no or low benefit” workforce in its place.

 

The strike has gone on for months, but unfortunately, the leadership of the union, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 50, has limited its strategy to challenging the company’s actions through the National Labor Relations Board. It has not mobilized even its own Local, let alone the BCTGM International, to take any other actions.  Local 50 has over 1,500 members, but only 120 are employees of Stella D’Oro, and it is only these 120 who have been picketing.  As a result of their relative isolation, a section of the strikers reached out and linked up with some supporters and a strike support committee was set up.  The committee organized a rally and protest at the end of January.  The recent March 11 protest was the second action called by the committee. 

 

 The strikers and supporters mounted a picket line and tried to speak to the scabs and convince them not to cross the line.  One of the scabs turned back and did not go to work.  But a number of the scabs, in cars, tried to run over the people on the picket line in order to get into the factory — to work in a job that is not theirs, where they are at the mercy of the boss!  Since the picket line was having an effect on the scabs and the company, the NYPD were called in and the police made sure that the strikers could not speak to the scabs and could not picket except in a pen on the sidewalk.  So much for freedom in America!  In spite of this, all of the strikers and supporters were happy with the effort made.

 

Photo courtesy of Micah LandauLocal 50 just won a ruling from the NLRB.  Although details are not available, the ruling appears to includea provision that at the conclusion of the strike, all the strikers must get their jobs back and that scabs can only be retained on top of this.  However, it is likely the company will appeal the ruling and try keep this in the courts for years to come.  And as every worker knows, the laws and the courts are not neutral; they are on the side of the rich and Big Business.

 

The leadership of Local 50 and the entire BCTGM must mobilize their forces to support the strikers and carry out mass picketing at the company gates.  They must also appeal for the support of the more than 1 million-member strong NYC Central Labor Council.  The NYC CLC should make it known to the company and the city government that the company cannot run production while there is a strike.  If they continue to do this, the CLC must see this for what it is: a threat to all union labor in NYC. It must draw the necessary conclusions and mobilize mass picketing that will make it impossible for production at the plant to continue.  It is possible that a serious declaration to this effect would cause the government to pressure the company to stop production and negotiate. However if this did not happen, the CLC must be ready to back up words with deeds.  A recent protest in NYC by Teachers and other city workers had about 70,000 people show up. This is an indication of the kind of ferment developing among NYC union members and workers in general, and of the kind of support that can be mobilized if the union leaders choose to do so.

 

This strike can be won!  But this strike also shows the need to build caucuses of members in the unions who want to change the policy of the unions so they can become tools to fight the bosses more effectively.  The unions must also be prepared to challenge the politicians for the rich, with labor candidates, who will commit to repealing anti-labor laws that make it harder to win strikes.

 

For more information on this strike and to join the WIL in supporting the Stella D'Oro workers, contact us!


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