On Monday, March 22, at the Bradken Special Steel Casting and Rolling Plant in Achison, Kansas, nearly 60 steel workers went on strike every hour. There are 131 workers in the factory. The strike entered the second week of today.
The strikers were organized under the local 6943 organization of the United States Steel Workers Union (USW). After unanimously voting to veto Bradken's "last, best and final offer", the workers passed the strike by an overwhelming majority, and the vote was held on March 12. A full week before the strike vote was passed on March 19, USW waited for the required 72-hour notice of intent to strike.
The locals have not publicly detailed the company or its own requirements in the press or on social media. According to local union officials, the strike is an unfair labor practice strike, not a strike that causes any economic demand.
The timing of Bradken's strike is important. This plan has just begun, and just a week ago, more than 1,000 USW workers of Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) in Pennsylvania will pass the strike with 95% of the votes on March 5, and it will be held this Tuesday. strike. The U.S. Navy tried to isolate steel workers by ending the strike before the ATI workers went on strike.
According to its website, Bradken is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of cast iron and steel products, headquartered in Mayfield West, New South Wales, Australia. The company operates manufacturing and mining operations in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, India and Myanmar.
Workers at the Atchison plant produce locomotive, railway and transportation parts and components, mining, construction, industrial and military castings, and ordinary steel castings. The business relies on electric arc furnaces to produce 36,500 tons of output per year.
Bradken became a subsidiary of Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. and a subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd. in 2017. Hitachi Construction Machinery Co.'s gross profit in 2020 was US$2.3 billion, which was a decrease from the US$2.68 billion in 2019, but it was still much higher than its 2017 gross profit of US$1.57 billion. Bradken was founded in Delaware, a notorious tax haven.
USW claimed that Bradken refused to bargain fairly with the union. Local 6943 President Gregg Welch told Atchison Globe, “The reason we did this was service negotiation and unfair labor practices. This is related to protecting our seniority rights and allowing our senior The staff keeps the job irrelevant."
Like every contract reached by the USW and all other unions on this, negotiations between company executives and union officials are also conducted in closed-door negotiating committees with Bradken. Workers usually don't know anything about the terms under discussion, and they don't know anything until the contract is about to be signed. Then, before rushing to vote, the workers received only the essentials of the contract signed by the union officials and the company management. In recent years, few workers have obtained a complete reading contract negotiated by the USW before voting, which violates their rights.
Workers condemned Bradken’s vice president of operations, Ken Bean, in a letter to them on March 21, saying that if workers decide to become “pay-as-you-go, non-members” or resign, they can get past the picket. continue working. From the union. Kansas is a so-called "right to work" state, which means that workers can work in unionized workplaces without having to join a union or pay dues.
Bean also told Atchison Press that the company used scabies workers to continue production during the strike, and reported that “the company is taking all possible measures to ensure that production is not interrupted and to take advantage of all available options.”
Workers at the Atchison factory and community publicly expressed their determination not to cross the Bradken cordon on the USW 6943 and 6943-1 Facebook pages. As one worker wrote in a post, announcing that Bradken offered the "last, best and final" offer: "98% of the transportation will not cross the line! My family will be there to support the strike , This is important to our family and community."
In order to intimidate and undermine the morale of striking workers, Bradken has deployed local police to the picket and issued a prohibition order to prevent local supporters from walking outside the workers’ picket area. The USW did not actually take any measures to protect workers from these intimidation tactics, isolating workers from working-class pickets in the area, including 8,000 at the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant, located about 55 miles from Claycomo, Missouri. Auto workers.
In the context of mass unemployment, the economic crisis faced by global workers and the decision of the ruling class during the COVID-19 pandemic to prioritize profits over public safety have resulted in a public health disaster. AFL-CIO and USW are using another strategy. . They are unable to curb opposition through previous strike suppression methods. They are seeking to use strikes to entangle workers on the starvation wages of the strike pickets, isolate them from other workers at home and abroad, and force workers to Brecon through concession contracts. (Bradken) has accumulated enough profits to maintain competitiveness with domestic and foreign competitors in the industry in the short term.
In response to the radical class’s criminal negligence on public safety and the demand for austerity measures during the pandemic, an increasing wave of belligerence has swept the entire working class, although this has forced workers to return to unsafe workplaces for profit. Atchison Bradken's strike is a manifestation of this kind of belligerence. The World Socialist Web Site fully supports the struggle between workers and the company. However, WSWS also urges workers to take their own struggle into their own hands and does not allow it to be destroyed by the USW, which is planning to succumb to the demands of the company behind the workers.
Workers in Bradken, Kansas, and ATI, Pennsylvania, must draw conclusions from the valuable lessons of the two recent strikes betrayed by the U.S. Navy and international unions. The USW quarantined mine workers in Asarco, Texas and Arizona for nine months last year in order to carry out a severe strike on international mining groups. After nearly a month of fighting with the French manufacturer, aluminum processing workers at Constellium in Muscle Shoals, Alabama were sold out. Every struggle ended with USW, which gave the company what they needed.
USW not only isolates Bradken workers from ATI workers, but also isolates their brothers and sisters from being exploited by the same company all over the world, as well as from steel workers and metal workers who are facing attacks on their livelihoods by the ruling class worldwide. According to the BBC, if the workers of the British Freedom Steel lose their jobs, their communities will suffer losses. If the company cooperates with the community union to close its operations at its steel mills in Rotherham and Stocksbridge .
The ruling elites use nationalism to spur workers in one country against another country, in order to prevent the working class from struggling with them internationally, in order to cause a collective blow to the capitalist system. State-based trade unions link the interests of workers and exploiters, claim that what is good for the national interest is good for the working class, and seek to turn class tensions into support for the ruling class’s war plans.
Tom Conway, president of the USW International Organization, recently wrote an article for the Independent Media Institute, which called on the United States to manufacture more parts within its borders to cope with the international semiconductor shortage. , The shortage has interrupted production in the automotive industry. Conway did not support Trump's "America First" plan like Biden's nationalist "America Is Back" plan, and did not speak out for the nationalist and profit-oriented policies of the ruling class that lay off staff due to shortages. . The ultimate goal is to deepen the trade war measures against China.
All over the world, workers are rejecting the nationalist framework of trade unions and are trying to put the struggle against the capitalist system in their own hands by setting up independent grade safety committees. Workers on these committees are making their own demands based on their own needs, rather than what unions and companies say can be "burdened" by the ruling class. It is very important that these committees are providing workers with an organizational framework to link their struggles across industries and international borders in an effort to end the capitalist system of exploitation and replace it with socialism. This is the only way to realize the promise of social equality. Economic system.
We urge the workers who strike in Bradken and the workers in ATI (ATI) to form their own gear committees so that their strikes can be linked and fight the isolation imposed by the US Navy. These committees must call for an end to dangerous working conditions, a substantial increase in wages and benefits, full income and health benefits for all retirees, and the restoration of the eight-hour workday. Workers must also request that all negotiations between the USW and the company be real-time, and provide members with a complete contract for them to study and discuss, and then vote for two weeks.
The Socialist Equality Party and WSWS will do their best to support the organization of these committees. If you are interested in forming a strike committee in your factory, please contact us immediately.