Locked Out in Meredosia
This month's issue of The Progressive has an article (unfortunately, not available online) about the intimidation of union workers in Meredosia, IL, a small town about 100 miles north of St. Louis on the Illinois River.
The dispute between the Boilermakers Local 484 and Celanese Corporation has been raging pretty much since Celanese, a massive Dallas TX-based global chemical manufacturing firm, purchased Vinamul Polymers, the emulsion polymers business of National Starch and Chemical Company (NSC) in February 2005.
National Starch and Chemical, founded 1895, built its Meredosia plant in 1955. The company makes a variety of polymers, adhesives and starches for food and industrial use. NSC was bought by Unilever in 1978, then sold to ICI in 1997. In early 2005, ICI sold this plant and several others to Celanese as part of the "Vinamul Polymers" sale.
That's when the troubles began. Since early this year, the approximately 150 Boilermakers have been locked out of the Meredosia plant. According to The Progressive article, Celanese demanded "to cut wages by $4 to $6 an hour, as well as eliminate thirty-seven maintenance and utility jobs" in July 2005, after members rejected their previous, more 'generous' offer, by a vote of 145 to 2.
Celanese has also hired Special Response Corporation for security during the lockout. Among their tactics: "Special Response personnel... regularly patrol the streets of Meredosia, videotaping union members and their families in public or even in their own backyards."
I sure hope Celanese doesn't acquire any facilities in the St. Louis metro area.
However, I did notice that the Carondelet phosphate plant at Germania and Alabama formerly owned by Monsanto, and then Solutia, and then Astaris, was bought in November 2005 by Israel Chemicals Limited. They are based in Tel Aviv, Israel. The plant workers are members of ICWUC-UFCW Local 81.
That's a different local, but the same umbrella union, as workers at Schnucks, Dierbergs, Shop N Save, and St. John's Mercy Medical Center nurses - UFCW Local 665. On the heels of their relatively successful strikes at the grocery stores in 2003 and St. John's about one year ago, that much larger local is sponsoring constant TV ads critical of Wal-Mart, targeted at the St. Louis market. I'm not quite sure the source of the money for all these ads, but it wouldn't be considered political so they probably don't have to report it.