Saturday, May 29, 2010

Southern labor taking action in North Carolina and Mississippi

Southern workers in North Carolina and Mississippi are taking a stand against intransigent companies that want to roll back the clock to a union-free past.

In North Carolina hundreds of tobacco pickers frustrated with 12-hour workdays and unsafe working conditions took their case directly to the R. J. Reynolds Company in Winston-Salem, invading a May 7 shareholders meeting, making sure stockholders as well as executives heard their complaints. The workers sang a civil rights spiritual and then joined a picket line outside the building.

Despite the miserable working conditions in the fields, R.J. Reynolds has posted a $962 million profit during this recession, with huge bonuses going to company executives.

The workers are members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a group led by Baldemar Velasquez and which has a long record of successful labor actions on behalf of the immigrant workers who now work the fields in this country.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the South, in Mississippi, veteran workers at the Columbus plant of the Omnova company have gone on strike after rejecting a contract that put seniority and other rights at risk.

The strikers are members of the Steelworkers Union Local 748-L. The company produces commercial wall covering and coated fabrics. It employs just under 300.

As previously reported in this blog, workers with the Delta Pride Catfish company have also voted to go on strike after their company tried to gut seniority and the other rights that they had fought for and gained over the past 20 years.

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