By Dante Strobino
On July 9 workers and many community supporters staged a militant street rally in Rock Island, Ill., in front of a Wells Fargo bank to protest the closing of the Quad City Die Casting plant in Moline, Ill.
Putting their bodies on the line to challenge the bank’s business as usual, the rally moved into the street to blockade traffic. Nearly a dozen QCDC workers and other workers refused to leave and were arrested in defiance. When asked by local FOX 18 News why she took such bold action and got arrested, QCDC worker Deb Johann stated, “Because I wanna save my job!” (July 9)
QCDC workers are represented by Electrical Workers Local 1174 and have been actively fighting this closing for almost two months since the company warned them it was closing its doors. A hundred workers are at risk of losing their jobs if Wells Fargo doesn’t extend a loan to keep their plant operating. After receiving $25 billion in bailout funds, the bank is acting as a “road block to recovery,” says UE.
The QCDC bosses informed workers that Wells Fargo would not approve payments for vacation pay that was owed to them. Two years ago, UE Local 1174 workers fought long and hard when they went on strike, endured a lockout during contract negotiations and finally secured a decent contract. Now the bosses want to throw out their legally binding collective bargaining agreement and are refusing to pay the 2 percent wage increase and a floating holiday and have eliminated health insurance. UE estimates this could have an economic impact on the Quad Cities of $6.1 million annually in lost wages and tax revenue.
Coming off the heels of a national day of action against Wells Fargo on June 23 where UE members and community supporters in some 20 cities from Boston to Los Angeles held rallies at branches of banking giant Wells Fargo—and in some cases its subsidiary Wachovia—workers around the country are paying close attention to the heroic actions of QCDC workers.
When asked about this bold protest, Ricky Maclin, vice president of UE Local 1110, one of the leaders of the Republic Windows & Doors plant occupation in Chicago last winter, told Workers World, “This type of action is very necessary. This is the moment when we must stand up for ourselves.”
Bold actions by workers, including risking arrests and occupying factories, is becoming increasingly popular around the world as the global capitalist economic crisis deepens for the workers and mass unemployment grows worse.
QCDC workers have received lots of support and inspiration from union brothers and sisters at UE Local 1110, who ultimately forced Bank of America to extend loans to keep the factory open, now under new owners.
Workers at Hartmarx occupied their factory near Chicago and in early July forced Wells Fargo to negotiate. But the plant was closed suddenly Aug. 7 when the bankrupt company was sold to new owners. The Aug. 11 Chicago Sun-Times reported the workers were not paid federally mandated severance.
Workers in South Korea at Ssangyong Motor plant carried out a heroic plant occupation, which was attacked by the police on Aug. 4.
Workers at a Visteon auto parts plant followed other Irish workers at Waterford Crystal who occupied their factory earlier this year.
In Windsor, Canada, members of Canadian Auto Workers Local 195 occupied their factory for a day in March. General strikes in France, Guadeloupe and Martinique, among other countries, have also fought against job loss, mass poverty and general deterioration of living conditions for the workers and oppressed.
Only with the energy and leadership of rank-and-file workers will a mass movement be built to secure jobs or a guaranteed income and finally meet the needs of the multinational working class.
Strobino is an organizer with UE local 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union.