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Tony Mazzocchi's Spirit Haunts Big Oil Again

By Steve Early - CounterPunch and Beyon Chron, February 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Twelve years ago, America’s leading advocate of occupational health and environmental safety succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

In the U.S., where the influence of organized labor has long been contracting, the death of a former trade union official is often little noted. Yet Tony Mazzocchi was no ordinary labor leader. His passing from the scene, at age 76, was widely recognized and correctly mourned as a great loss for the entire union movement.

As a top strategist for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), Mazzocchi pioneered alliances between workers concerned about job safety and health hazards and communities exposed to industrial pollution generated by companies like Shell, Chevron, and Mobil.

In 1973, members of the OCAW (who are now part of the United Steel Workers) conducted a national contract campaign and four-month strike at Shell Oil over workplace safety rights and protections. As Mazzocchi’s biographer, Les Leopold notes, “the strike helped build a stronger anti-corporate movement” because OCAW members learned “that you can’t win these fights alone.” To win—or even just battle Big Oil to a draw—workers had to join forces with the very same environmental organizations long demonized by the industry as the enemy of labor and management alike.

Women Lead Sanitation Strike at Massive Education Complex in China

By Yi Xi - Labor Notes, October 13, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For two weeks, sanitation workers gathered daily on the lawns of Guangzhou’s Higher Education Mega Center—a complex of ten universities serving 200,000 students that has taken over Xiaoguwei island—in the latest of a series of Guangzhou sanitation strikes.

The strike erupted August 26 after the sudden replacement of a contractor jeopardized the jobs of 212 sanitation workers, jobs many had held for a decade.

By the time it came to an end September 9, workers had won an agreement that included severance pay of 3,000 yuan (about $489 U.S.) per year of service.

Tensions are still simmering over whether the new company will rehire all veteran workers as promised. But although the dispute isn’t settled yet, its significance is clear.

This strike, a symptom of the increasing privatization of basic urban services, sets a promising precedent for solidarity between locals and migrants, for women workers' leadership, and for student-worker collaboration.

Thousands of Workers Begin Strike at World’s Biggest Copper Mine

By Cecilia Jamasmie - Mining.Com, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Close to 2,800 miners at Chile's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, began a 24-hour “warning” strike on Monday morning as they seek to negotiate better working conditions, Publimetro reports (in Spanish).

Workers belonging to the Sindicato No. 1 union said if talks with the mine owners, BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Rio Tinto (LON:RIO), don’t bear fruit, they’ll stage an indefinite stoppage beginning Wednesday morning.

The 1.2 million tonnes a year operation, located in Chile's Atacama Desert, also provides around 1,900 contract workers with full time jobs.

The news did not affect the red metal prices. London copper futures, in fact, fell to their weakest level in months, losing 1.46% to trade at $6,735 a tonne by 0648 GMT. Earlier they had fallen falling to $6,722.50, the lowest since June.

So far this year copper prices have tumbled more than 8%.

Escondida’s Sindicato No. 1 union carried out a similar 24-hour stoppage over pay and conditions last year. That dispute was quickly settled, but during a two-week strike in the summer of 2011 output of more than 40,000 tonnes of copper was lost, forcing operator BHP to declare force majeure.

News of the strike comes not long after BHP said the mine could substantially increase total output next year to 1.27 million tonnes.

The mine which also produces gold and silver as by-products plays a key role in the Chilean economy, accounting for about for 2.5% of the country's gross domestic product. According to Rio Tinto’s website, in 2012 the mine generated 5% of global copper production and around 15% of the South American nation output.

Striking Kaiser Employees Say Hurwitz is the Real Problem

Don Kegley, Mike McIntyre, Carol Ford, and Stan White, interviewed by Mikal Jakubal - River and Range, Winter 1999

Mikal Jakubal: In 1988, Charles Hurwitz's MAXXAM Corporation gained control of Kaiser Aluminum, a few years after his similar takeover of Pacific Lumber. On September 30 of last year, 3,100 members of the United Steel Workers of America walked out of five Kaiser Aluminum plants in Washington state, Ohio and Louisiana. They claim the company was unwilling to bargain in good faith on such issues as fair labor practices, outsourcing jobs to lower wage contractors, pensions, and wage and benefit parity with Kaiser's main competitors, Alcoa and Reynolds.

Ever since, employees at both Kaiser and Pacific Lumber --though in different industries several states apart--have been on an intertwining course: PALCO employees are replacing striking workers, or "scabbing," at Kaiser plants; Steelworkers have vowed to unionize PALCO and have marched in Scotia; and forest activists and Steelworkers have begun a loose alliance.

The Steelworkers consider Hurwitz and MAXXAM the problem--not Kaiser as they once knew it. The Steelworkers first encountered forest activists and issues from Humboldt County through the Jail Hurwitz web site. Soon they began working with environmentalists, who blame MAXXAM for the brutal changes in PALCO's forest management, to fight a common foe.

My connection with the Steelworkers began in late October, in the fifth week of the strike, when I went up and hired in to Kaiser's Tacoma, Washington smelter as a spy for USWA Local 7945. After a week, I revealed what I was doing and quit. Despite wide publicity, I then managed to get a job at one of the Spokane plants and worked for two weeks before walking out the front gate to the picket line with a sign that read, "No More Scabbing for Hurwitz!"

USWA members, especially long-time employees who remember Kaiser before and after MAXXAM, vocally dislike Hurwitz and what he's done to Kaiser--"their" company. Like long-time PALCO workers, they remember a pre-MAXXAM company that cared for its employees and managed their business with recognition of its responsibility to their community and its future. Union workers spoke freely with me about the strike, working conditions, and their concerns for their future and their communities. As the Steelworkers told me stories in the Local 338 Hall, drivers honked their horns in support of the picket line out front. Every now and then a locomotive would come by on the railroad tracks doing the same. The solidarity is strong.

Kaiser severely underestimated the strength and spirit of the union. Less than two percent of union members have crossed the picket line, despite the economic hardships. Recently the union, at the request of local clergy, and concerned about the number of injuries suffered by inexperienced replacement workers, offered to come back to work unconditionally while negotiations took place. When Kaiser rejected that offer, the strike officially became a "lockout." The "lockout" designation also means that if the union prevails in the unfair labor practices case it has brought with the National Labor Relations Board, MAXXAM's Kaiser could be held liable for back wages since the time of the lockout. There are at press time no negotiations in progress and the strike continues.

Kaiser Infiltrated by One Sly Spy: Environmentalist Goes Undercover; Union Housed Secret Worker

By Hannelore Sudermann - Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Spokesman-Review, December 19, 1998

An environmentalist has been working undercover at Kaiser Aluminum plants until this week. Mikal Jakubul, said hes been a spy for the United Steelworkers during several weeks of the union's lengthy strike at Kaiser.

To the surprise of the security guards, Jakubul, 35, walked out of the Trentwood plant Thursday to great a waiting group of pickets.

This is the second time hes exposed himself as a spy at Kaiser.

Just a few weeks ago, after working at the Tacoma smelter, Jakubul said he walked out in the middle of a shift and told my supervisors and my co-workers what I had been doing there. He briefed the union on activities inside the plant, and gave news media interviews about inefficiencies he said he observed.

Then he came to Spokane. Jakubul, an environmental activist from Humboldt County, California, applied for work at both Mead and Trentwood. He took the job Trentwood offered, which had him working in a lab one week and on the aluminum slitter the next.

His application was identical to the one he filled out in Tacoma, he said. They're so disorganized, he said, I didn't lie about my name or anything. The union was aware of his activity and housed him while he worked at Trentwood.

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