As Company Pays Out
$800,000 in Back Wages
Acme Workers Continue
|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.
||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 Acmes 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, Acmes 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.
The first-contract struggle took the national stage on Feb. 18 when UE
brought the story of Lovejoys labor-rights abuses to the Lucent Technologies
stockholders meeting in New Jersey. Lucent Technologies purchases 60 percent of
Acmes 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 Lucents 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 dont you sign a contract?"
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."