In New York Bookstore Contract Fight, Occupy Helped Workers Draw Energy, Media Spotlight
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 00:00 By Diane Krauthamer, published in Truthout | Report
(Photo: Diane Krauthamer)
When the union contract at Strand Bookstore expired last summer, the workers did not anticipate spending ten months engaged in a dispute that would fundamentally strengthen their voice on the job and draw the support of labor activists throughout New York City. On June 15, workers at Strand – who are represented by the United Autoworkers (UAW) Local 2179 – voted to ratify a new contract which prevents the company from making significant cuts to personal and vacation days and maintains cost-of-living wage increases and an affordable health insurance plan. While the contract was itself an achievement, the ten-month period leading up to its agreement proved to be where the power lay. In this time, Strand workers engaged in a battle that fundamentally altered their relationship with management and the union – building shop floor power beyond the scope of what a good contract could offer.
Cyrus Kleege, a shop steward with UAW Local 2179, who has been working at Strand for seven and a half years, said that solidarity on the shop floor and support from labor groups throughout the city allowed him and his coworkers to “prevent the company from being able to achieve the worst of what they wanted to achieve.”
The battle at Strand began shortly after the previous contract expired on August 30, 2011. Workers learned of the company’s plans for drastic cutbacks and began regularly meeting with their negotiating committee. [click here to read the rest of this story.]