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Resistance and solidarity against Crown Holdings

Carolyn Egan

October 30, 2013

Over 120 Steelworkers, members of USW Local 9176, have been on the picket line at Crown Holdings in Toronto since September 6. The company produces cans for Cott, Molson, Lebatts and other well-known companies, and has 140 workplaces around the globe. It is a very profitable enterprise, having made over $500 million in 2012—with $12 million going to its CEO--and yet is demanding concessions from its workers.
This is a pattern we are seeing way too often. Corporations are feeling that they can increase their bottom line by putting more and more pressure on workers to accept cuts. Companies are attempting to impose low wage conditions and feel they can run rough shod over the needs of their workers. These men and women were forced out on strike because they refused to be brow beaten by corporate bullies, and are fighting back against the demands of their employer.
The union refused to accept a two tiered wage scale for new and most probably younger workers, as well as other concessions. We have seen this in the auto sector and it is a strategy that employers of all stripes are attempting to implement. These workers have accepted stand pat agreements in the past but refused to go along with the plans for a low wage workplace. They are fighting not for themselves but for those who will come after them.
They have a militant flying squad and the members are very active in their own defence. Not one worker from the union has crossed the line. Unfortunately others from a non-union Crown plant in Calgary are being flown in to make up production. They are being assisted by a notorious scab protecting security company. A number of visits have been made to the hotel where the scabs are staying, delaying their departure to the workplace.
The strikers have demanded that their union stand by them, and have made connections with other Crown workers in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Turkey. Strikers have traveled to these locations and solidarity was strong. In Turkey workers who are trying to get their union certified rallied to the cause and promised their ongoing support.
A bus of strikers travelled to the corporate headquarters in the US, demonstrating their rejection of the company’s proposals. Fellow Steelworkers, and others from the AFL-CIO, demonstrated with them. American workers are supporting their Canadian brothers and sisters and know that a loss in Toronto will affect their future as well. Secondary pickets have been taking place at companies that use the scab product in the greater Toronto area, with support of workers in those facilities. 
Reports have come out recently documenting the difficult situation facing young workers in this country. Precarious, low wage, contract work seems to be the name of the game. Full time, permanent jobs seem to be becoming a thing of the past. The strikers at Crown Holdings have fought hard to maintain a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. The company has forced these men and women on to the picket line because they are trying to create a low wage work force feeling no responsibility to those who create their wealth.
This struggle highlights the austerity agenda and its concrete attacks on the working class. If these workers and their allies can beat back the assaults by this large multi-national, it can give confidence to other workers in both the private and public sector. Solidarity is critical both locally and globally. Days of action in Crown plants everywhere can make a difference and show the company that the workers in Toronto are not alone.
For more information visit the USW campaign site.

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