Domino Sugar Workers Strike to Protest New Management's Changes
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Domino Sugar Workers Strike to Protest Managements Proposed Changes
As striking Domino Sugar union workers walk the picket line outside the factory gate, their every move is being monitored by a company-hired security guard who videotapes them and communicates to superiors via a walkie-talkie. This guard was overheard saying "It's just a reporter" moments before this picture was taken.
The first strike in nearly 53 years at the Domino Sugar refinery in Baltimore, Md. has 330 employees walking the picket line in protest of American Sugar Refining Co., Domino's owner. The workers are on strike to protest the companys elimination of two paid holidays (Veterans Day and New Year's Eve), changes in working conditions that they view as unfavorable, and the addition of a worker health insurance contribution of up to $100 per month. Furthermore, the companys proposed changes in existing jobs would reduce wages and benefits for new hires, the workers charge.
The workers are especially concerned about the companys proposal to alter how their pension fund is managed. The say the company will not provide them with detailed information about the change, which would involve pooling the pension reserves accumulated by the Baltimore workers—many of whom have been in the pension plan for many years by virtue of their seniority with the company—with other plans at other sites where there may not be as much pension funding paid in. Such a pooling, the workers fear, could result in reduced pensions when the time comes for them to retire.
At about 10 a.m. on Sat., Jan. 4, a small band of striking Domino Sugar union workers walked a picket line outside the company gate on Key Highway. They have been protesting what they believe are unsafe working conditions at the plant, among other things.
According to a story posted on the unions website, Domino refuses to provide basic financial information on the pension plans, essentially expecting workers to turn over their money with no more than a wink and a nod to count on. The company's proposals for retirement and health benefits include no guarantees.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 392 went on strike December 8. On January 7, at the urging of a federal mediator, the company and the workers commenced face-to-face negotiations at a downtown hotel to resolve the impasse.
Workers have been taking turns walking the picket line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week outside the entrance to the Key Highway plant while a company security guard with a video camera observes them, and occasionally films them, from the sidewalk. Meanwhile, the company is continuing to operate with a staff of about 150 non-union employees.
The Baltimore Local 392 includes not only Domino sugar workers, but workers in supermarkets, food processing companies, and companies involved in the chemical, distillery, garment and health industries. There are 1.4 million members of the parent UFCW International Union.