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Carousel strikers condemn temp agency scabs

Striking Carousel linen workers and their supporters rallied November 9 in Highwood to demand union recognition and condemn the use of scab labor by temp agencies.
Carousel strikers condemn temp agency scabs

By John Bachtell
People's Weekly World

Highwood-A black coffin was placed beneath the speakers platform by pallbearers made up of striking Carousel Linen workers and their supporters. The coffin signified scab labor, low wages and rotten working conditions that strikers were determined to bury.
This symbolic act opened the November 9 rally in solidarity with 40 industrial laundry workers on strike for union recognition, better wages and working conditions. 100 religious leaders and trade unionists joined the strikers, including members of the USWA, IBEW, UE, and teachers, along with students and community supporters.
"What are we fighting for?" asked Joe Costigan, district political director for UNITE, the union organizing the workers. "Justice against poverty wages of $5.15/hr. Justice against a company that is a bad citizen in this community. It's shameful."
Rabbi Robert Marks, president of the Interfaith Committee on Workers Issues was one of several religious leaders who spoke. He told the strikers, "Let me echo Jeremiah, 'they have eyes but see not.' There are people who see not that you can't feed children and support a family. We stand against those who oppose you."
Reverend Donna Atkinson of the Bethany Methodist Church in Highland Park recalled that her grandfather was a railroad worker and had been part of the 1918 strike for higher wages.
"I come from the faith tradition that supports the rights of workers for collective bargaining, safe working conditions and just wages. We are with you until you win," she said.
The strikers, all Mexican immigrant workers, have endured anti-Mexican insults before and during the five-week strike.
"We are here to win," said strike captain Miriam Perez. "We won't put up with abuse for $5.15/hr. Why does the owner oppose us? Because we don't speak English? Because we are Mexican? What makes him think he can violate our rights?"
"Scott (Carousel owner) says we are family. But who else in his family makes such miserable wages?" asked striker Olivia Castro.
Salvador Cerna brought greetings from Congressmember Luis Guiterrez. In response to those who called the workers unpatriotic for striking during a national crisis, Cerna said, "Mr. Scott, you are unpatriotic, un-American, and you must come to terms with the workers. This company was built by working men and women like you, by immigrants."
Tim Leahy, assistant to President Don Turner of the Chicago Federation of Labor brought greetings from the 500,000 member council.
"You are not alone. You will win this battle. We see a lot of stickers on cars that say 'united we stand.' Everyone who has such a sticker should join you. You represent the best of the trade union movement."
The rally was also called to expose the use of scab day labor to break strikes by Chicago area temp agencies. One such company, Remedy, is sending day laborers to scab at Carousel.
Sandra Moralles of the Jobs with Justice's Day Laborers Project called the temp agencies an "outlaw industry" because they are herding unknowing day laborers into unsafe working conditions and strikes. She noted that scab day laborers have been used against electrical workers and currently in strikes at V & V Supremo and Coach and Car.
Dan Keeler, also of the Day Laborers project called for passage of a day labor ordinance that is currently in the Chicago City Council that would end such unscrupulous practices.
"Jobs with Justice is organizing visits to Carousel's clients," said Sarita Gupta, director of Chicago JwJ. "Today we mourn the miserable working conditions and wages. May they rest in peace."
And with that the pallbearers hoisted the coffin and led the entire crowd on a march to Carousel offices.



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