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Fascism and Big Business by Daniel Guerin

Friday, November 6, 2009

SK Strike victory: who dares (and prepares) wins


Lee Sustar, labor editor at SocialistWorker.org has a good article on the SK strike here. In part he writes:

THE SK Hand Tools struggle broke out a time when far bigger unions have been unwilling or unable to stand up to employer demands for concessions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers are down 95 percent over last year--and are at the lowest level since records were first kept in the 1940s.

The SK Hand Tools strike was too small to be included in those statistics. But it showed the potential for workers' struggles to rally support at a time when there is growing anger at the bankers and the wealthy, while workers face their worst prospects in decades.

The workers' picket line on Chicago's Southwest Side became a regular stopping point for members of other unions and activists of all kinds. Strikers were featured at a variety of labor and social movement events, from the Chicago Federation of Labor's Labor Day rally, to an immigrants' rights march the same day, and to a meeting with LGBT activist Cleve Jones to build the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. Activists from around the city attended a successful fundraiser at the Local 743 union hall.

"All the people who came to our line gave us a big boost in our spirits," Lunar said. "We are very thankful to people who donated food and money, or just their time. It really helped keep our spirits up. It was the most amazing experience. We didn't feel alone for a minute."

A major factor in the struggle was Local 743's New Leadership reform slate, headed by local President Rich Berg, who also served as chief negotiator with SK Hand Tools management. Since replacing a corrupt union leadership--including officials who are now in jail--Local 743's new administration has focused on rebuilding rank-and-file activism. The SK Hand Tools strike highlighted the stark differences between the reformers and the old guard.

"For years, I heard people say, 'The union doesn't do anything but take money from our pockets,'" Lunar said. "Today, people realize that it's important to have a strong union."

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