9/27/08

UAW labor-state strike enters month 11

Related story: "The 28 labor-states" • More strike stories: here

Workers cross picket lines to replace idle unionists

The Central New York Labor Religion Coalition Friday held a rally attended by religious, labor and political leaders in front of Jaquith Industries Inc., in hopes of jump-starting stalled contract negotiations.

About two dozen members of United Auto Workers Local 624 Unit 5 went on strike when their old contract expired Dec. 1, and ever since have walked a picket line outside the plant, at Glen and Brighton avenues. Jaquith makes airport runway lighting equipment and concrete forms.

Talks broke off in February, and the company has refused to come back to the bargaining table. It has hired workers to replace the strikers.

"I think there's some basic human rights involved here that deserve our attention," said Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Costello, a member of the coalition. The coalition sent company president D. Scott Jaquith a letter urging him to return to the bargaining table, Costello said. "Through his attorney, he chose not to sit with us. So we're using this method to try to get his attention," he said.

During the rally, attended by about 50 people, Costello spoke about Jaquith Industries' long history in the community, and he compared it to a family.

When the current president's father, Donald S. Jaquith, ran the company, "it's my understanding that the employees and the work force were regarded as a true collaborator, and history proved that it worked, because not only did the employees progress but so did the company," Costello told the crowd. "I'm here this morning to ask Scott Jaquith to see if he can't recapture some of that charisma of his father and make the family whole again."

"We're all in this together. That's the only way we'll succeed," said Dr. Dennis Nave, a family doctor, member of the Central New York Physician Teamster Alliance and president of the Greater Syracuse Labor Council.

"I hope one day our entire community understands that when one of us loses in the community - I don't care if you're UAW or who you work for - if one of us loses, the entire community loses a rung on the ladder," said Scott Stanton, president of UAW Local 624.

Following the rally, state Assemblywoman Joan Christensen and a reporter were rebuffed, at the company's door, in their attempts to meet with Scott Jaquith. A man who answered the door said Jaquith had no comment.

The company is seeking pay and benefit cuts, though workers gave back 7 percent on their last contract, union officials have said. The union is seeking a three-year contract with raises of 3 percent a year, said Bill Hyde, co-chairman of the bargaining unit.

The workers also want better health and safety conditions, investment in the facility and job security, union officials have said. The striking workers receive unemployment, which is set to expire soon, Hyde said. "We're living on unemployment. It's kind of hard to raise a family and try to keep yourself afloat," he said.

If the workers are unable to get an extension of unemployment benefits, they will move to the $200 a week union strike benefits, he said.

(syracuse.com)

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