Life After Trusteeship

Against the Current, No. 3, May/June 1986

Roger Horowitz & Kim Moody

The UFCW International took another step toward strike-breaking on May 8 when it announced it was placing Local P-9 in trusteeship. P-9 countered by filing its multi-faceted suit against the UFCW, which included a petition for a restraining order against the trusteeship. Judge Gerhart Gesell dismissed the petition.

The remainder of the suit, which includes a demand for $13 million in damages, will wind its way through the court system for some time, but is not expected to win. The International followed its announcement with a motion for compliance in federal district court in St. Paul with Judge Edward Devitt, a right-winger who ruled against P-9 on secondary boycott charges last year.

Devitt did not grant immediate enforcement, which could include the use of federal marshals, but did order P-9 not to remove records or funds from P-9 accounts.

While UFCW Executive Board spokesperson Al Zack was ranting that “We’ve got to have that union hall,” just what the UFCW will take possession of is less than clear. The Austin Labor Center is owned by three local unions, including P-9. P-9 rents only part of the center. A larger part of the Labor Center is rented by the United Support Group, which operates the Adopt a P-9 Family Fund, the Hardship Fund, the enormous strike kitchen, and other services. The United Support Group has no legal relationship to the UFCW and no bargaining relationship with Hormel.

The importance of the trusteeship is that it will give the International the ability to negotiate a settlement with Hormel and end the strike. Zack has stated the lnternational’s intention to do so and has indicated that the UFCW can get a significant number of the strikers’ jobs back under a new contract.

That implied promise is based on the belief that the Austin plant will require its previous workforce of 1,500. The company, however, states that it will be able to return to normal production with only about 1,000 workers.

Currently, production is way below pre-strike levels, perhaps 25%, with only about 800 in the plant. That is 200 less than a month ago. The decline is thought to result from a combination of the impact of the boycott and of accidents and injuries of epidemic proportions.

Contributions to the P-9 strikers should be sent to United Support Group, P.O. Box 396, Austin, MN 55912. Tel. (507) 437-4110.

May-June 1986, ATC 3

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