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Silver Capital Workers Fight for Justice

by staff |
December 1, 2004
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Chicago, IL - When rank-and-file members of Teamsters Local 743 arrived at the door of their union hall at 9:00 a.m., Oct. 16, they were forced to stand outside in the cold. Rogelio Garcia, Elizabeth Michaca and Josefina Mendez were denied entrance into the building that is paid for with their dues money. They had come to watch the ballot count in their union officers’ election.

The thugs behind the desk hollered, “Your company closed. You’re no longer members of this union. You can’t vote in the election.”

Within an hour, the thugs came back to the front door. “Silver Capital workers can all come in.” Their efforts to block participation by these workers were countered by the reformers in the 743 New Leadership Slate (NLS). By the end of the day, the tough guys were sweating as they watched the vote count pile up a victory for the NLS.

Immigrant Workers Stand Up To Company and Union Sellouts

Two months earlier, 150 workers at the Silver Capital factory in the Chicago suburb of Bedford Park had listened to their so-called representative tell them their company was closing. “They had negotiated a deal in secret,” said Marcela Garcia. “Then they handed us the severance agreement and said, ‘Take it or leave it.’”

For the bureaucrats in Local 743, deal making like this is standard operating procedure.

What happened next was a shock to the sellouts. The Silver Capital workers, all immigrants, and many undocumented workers, declared a one-day strike against the company and the union officials. They demanded an end to collusion between the union and the company, who were carrying out a plan together against the workers.

Following this, the reformers in the New Leadership Slate came to offer their support. “The treatment of immigrant workers at Silver Capital shows the worst side of the old guard in Local 743,” said Tony Caldera. Caldera, a candidate with the NLS and an immigrant worker himself, also works at a factory represented by Local 743. He too has seen the union representatives sell out the interests of his co-workers on many occasions.

Caldera told the Silver Capital workers the NLS would stand by them and support them in their fight. He told them that their best chance for justice was to join the NLS. In response, Marcela Garcia was chosen vice-presidential candidate.

Silver Capital: A Symbol for Immigrant Labor

Since then, these rank-and-file workers have become very well known among the workers of Local 743, as well as immigrant workers in general in the Chicago area. Tens of thousands of immigrants from Mexico and other countries work in the low wage factories in and around Chicago. Besides low wages and bad working conditions, they share the experiences of being sold out by unions. These unions collect their dues and provide little or no representation. Workers continue to receive low wages, few raises and minimal benefits. Spanish and Polish speaking members in Local 743 have fought for years just to receive their contracts in their languages.

Jose Galvan, the representative who sold out the Silver Capital workers, went further than this. When undocumented workers protested the lousy offer he handed them, he threatened to call immigration.

One of the workers, Josefina, said this was just the latest act of intimidation. “For years they have treated us with disrespect because we are immigrants.”

The NLS is committed to helping the Silver Capital workers find jobs at other companies represented by the Local, and funding training for those workers who aren’t able to benefit from programs offered by the Labor Department. Richard Berg, presidential candidate of the New Leadership Slate said, “When we win, justice for the Silver Capital workers will be among our top priorities.”