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As Company Pays Out
$800,000 in Back Wages—

Acme Workers Continue
First-Contract Struggle

CHICAGO

Jorge Nicolas Valenzuela, president of UE Local 1116 (below), thanks community leaders for their support and points out that there are only a handful of unresolved issues left — a first contract can and should be reached soon. uen_0498_1116a.gif (13913 bytes)
uen_0498_1116b.gif (12495 bytes) State Sen. Jesus Garcia (above, at podium) is joined by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, State Rep. Sonia Silva and Teamsters Representative Geno Rodriguez in calling on Lovejoy Industries, parent of Acme Die Casting, to settle a first contract with UE Local 1116. The elected officials also called on Acme’s biggest customer to convince Lovejoy to settle.

As the decade-old struggle of Acme Die Casting workers to gain a first contract took on a national and even international dimension, the company agreed to pay back wages totaling $800,000 to 120 present and former employees.

In 1988, the year after Acme workers voted to join UE, the company illegally withheld a scheduled wage increase. Lovejoy Industries, Acme’s owner, then resisted orders by the National Labor Relations Board to implement the wage increase. As recently as a few months ago, management told workers they would never see that money.

But earlier this month, the Northbrook foundry agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the NLRB in 1991. Calculated at 30 cents an hour, the settlement will yield some workers as much as $12,000. Only those workers on the payroll in 1988 at the time of the scheduled wage increase will share in the settlement; 40 are still among the 140-person hourly workforce.

UE Local 1116, the Acme workers’ union, welcomes the settlement as correcting a past wrong but stresses that the fight for a contract continues. "We are fighting because we would like our first contract, that could give us job security," says Jorge "Nico" Valenzuela, a Local 1116 leader.

NATIONAL FOCUS

The first-contract struggle took the national stage on Feb. 18 when UE brought the story of Lovejoy’s labor-rights abuses to the Lucent Technologies stockholders’ meeting in New Jersey. Lucent Technologies purchases 60 percent of Acme’s products; the former AT&T subsidiary "could get this settled in one hour," says District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen.

Intl. Rep. Terry Davis and Field Org. Steve Hinds handed stockholders hundreds of fliers calling attention to company-created conflict and discrimination and growing public concern. The leaflet also appealed to Lucent’s policy of social responsibility. The open atmosphere of the Lucent stockholders’ meeting allowed Intl. Rep. Terry Davis to speak twice on the labor rights abuses of Acme Die Casting. Do you monitor your suppliers? Are you aware of the problems at the Lovejoy Industries’ plant Acme Die Casting?

Lucent officials assured her, "We have seen your leaflet — and we will be investigating."

Before the stockholders’ meeting in New Jersey had ended, back in Chicago Lovejoy Industries President Matthew Lovejoy had gathered the entire Acme workforce in the plant cafeteria to accuse the union of trying to shut down the plant.

"No," responded Nico Valenzuela in a loud and confident voice. "We are the union and all we are trying to do is get a contract. There are only a few points left. Why don’t you sign a contract?"

CONGRESSIONAL CALL

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, speaking at a press conference on March 3, called on Lucent to use its influence to help conclude negotiations. The Congressman was joined by State Senators Jesus Garcia and Miguel del Valle in expressing their strong support for Acme workers’ demand for a fair first contract.

The Workers’ Rights Board, a group of religious and community leaders who monitor abuses of workers’ rights, have also asked Lucent Technologies to help bring about a fair contract, said Board member Kristi Sanford.

Also in attendance was a representative of the Mexican Consulate. The Consul recently received a petition from Acme Die Casting workers charging low wages, discrimination and mistreatment of Mexican immigrants. "We appealed to the Mexican government because we feel the company takes advantage of our condition as immigrants," said Valenzuela.

Leaders of Teamster Local 714 from another Lovejoy-owned plant, Empire Galvanizing in Franklin Park, had just successfully concluded a seven-week strike when they appeared at the press conference. "We know what kind of company the Acme workers are dealing with," said Geno Rodriguez. "We never should have had to strike in the first place just to protect what we already had. We stand in solidarity with the Acme workers to get their contract, too."

UE News - 03/98


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