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Workers Vanguard No. 1125

12 January 2018

Henkel Strikers Beat Back Union Busting Attack

OAKLAND—After over nine weeks on strike, some 70 members of International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 1584 beat back a concerted union-busting attack by the Henkel Corporation in Bay Point, California, which produces adhesives centrally for the aerospace industry. Henkel hired the Strom Engineering strikebreaking firm to provide scabs. The same outfit had mobilized thousands of scabs during the 2005 strike by airline mechanics and cleaners at Northwest Airlines. In the end, the union held firm against Henkel’s insistence that the strikers return to work alongside the scabs.

The Henkel workers were able to hold out with the assistance of thousands of dollars in donations from other Bay Area unions, including International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 6 and American Federation of State, Council and Municipal Employees District Council 57. Members of these and other unions also joined the Henkel picket lines. If this solidarity had been translated into an actual mobilization of mass pickets, the scabs could have been stopped and Henkel’s production shut down tight. As it was, the scabs didn’t have the ability to keep production running at full capacity. Unable to meet orders for customers, which strikers said include Boeing, Airbus and the U.S. military, Henkel was forced to reach a settlement.

The strikers’ key demand was an end to criminally unsafe working conditions at the plant, where one worker was crushed to death in 2013 and others are routinely injured, often hideously (see “Victory to the Henkel Strike!” WV No. 1122, 17 November 2017). One striker told WV that the new contract allows workers to shut down unsafe machinery. An IAM area director said that a joint union-management safety committee, to be joined for the first six months by a federal mediator, is now mandated. Federal mediators are an arm of the capitalist state, whose purpose is to defend the interests of the capitalists who amass vast wealth from the exploitation of labor. As the strike showed, the bosses’ profit-driven contempt for workers’ lives can be held in check only by the countervailing force of organized workers. What is needed is a union-only safety committee with the power to shut down production.

Workers can rely only on their own independent strength, mobilized in struggle against the exploiters and all their agencies and political parties. That the Henkel strikers were able to prevail in the face of an anti-union attack by a major international corporation is a small but real victory for labor.

 

Workers Vanguard No. 1125

WV 1125

12 January 2018

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