Staley Workers Vote to Fight On

Against the Current, No. 58, September/October 1995

Steve Ashby

FIVE DAYS AFTER the rally Staley workers were presented with management’s contract. As expected, it was a slave labor, unionbusting “offer,” worse than their “last and final” contract that was overwhelmingly turned down by the workers three years ago. It calls for a nearly 50% cut to 349 union jobs (and only 210 in eighteen months), the rest to be subcontracted out; 12hour shifts rotating every six days; seniority gutted; scabs to work alongside union workers and “retrain” them for four months; and immediate discharge if unionists speak their minds to scabs.

In an effort to get the exhausted and financiallystrapped workers to sell each other out, A.E. Staley offered most workers a $30,000 severance check. (The average worker has twenty-five years in the plant.)

Local 7837’s Executive Board and Bargaining Committee voted unanimously to reject the contract. The UPIU International publicly advised workers to reject the contract. On July 10th, with 93% of the membership voting, 57% of the Staley workers voted to reject the brutal contract.

While this was not a sweeping victory for the more militant members, it shows that, after two years without a paycheck, the majority have taken a courageous stand to keep fighting.

The main focus of the work now is the ongoing campaign to force Pepsi Cola to switch to a union-made corn sweetener. Pepsi accounts for a third of A.E. Staley’s sales. Solidarity committees in St. Louis and Chicago recently had scores of activists leafleting at Pepsi-sponsored events including a Kite Festival in St. Louis and the grand opening of Navy Pier in Chicago.

The August 25-26 weekend has been selected as a national day of coordinated actions to pressure Pepsi and its subsidiary, Taco Bell. Activists are urged to target festivals sponsored by Pepsi, to hand out flyers wherever large crowds gather at summer events, and to insure Staley workers’ presence at Labor Day parades and picnics.

This campaign to pressure Pepsi will culminate in a big action on October 1. That date marks three years without a contract for the Staley workers and four years without a contract for UAW Caterpillar workers.

Staley workers will continue to speak their message that “We’re first, they’re coming after you next–All workers live in a War Ze.on;

ATC 58, September-October 1995