Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ashland Industries Strike Ends On Bad Terms

A dramatic five week strike at Ashland Industries in northern Wisconsin has come to an end.  The strike began back on April 1, after the company demanded that new hires not have to join the union, and that the company wouldn't have to contribute to their health insurance.  The 43 members of Local 621 of the International Association of Machinists refused these outrageous demands, and went out on strike.

The five weeks that followed saw an outpouring of community support in the form of solidarity protests, food donations, and volunteers walking the picket line.  A community rally in support of the strikers at the end of April drew over 100 people from across the region.  Tragically, during this time, the company hired a number of scabs, 10 union members crossing the picket lines.

The strike generated state wide attention.  Coming on the heels of Governor Walker's gutting of public workers rights, many workers saw this move by Ashland Industries to do to these private sector workers what the state government had done to public sector workers.

The company and the union have since reached an agreement ending the strike.  The terms of the agreement, however, represent a major set back for the workers.  The scabs hired during the strike will be kept on, and new hires will not have to join the union.  In addition, to date not all of the strikers have been able to return to work.

We salute these brave workers for standing up for their rights and their livelihoods.  We regret however that the community and the labor movement was not able to exert enough pressure on Ashland Industries to prevent the strike ending on such bad terms.  Lets commit ourselves to rebuilding the workers' movement - in the public and private sector - so that never again will such concessions have to be granted to the greedy bosses!

> The article above was written by Adam Ritscher, United Steelworkers Local 9460 and delegate to the Superior Federation of Labor.

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