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SK Hand Tools Teamsters strike for health care

By staff |
August 27, 2009
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Teamsters with raised fists, on strike in front of SK Hand Tools
(Fight Back! News/Jo Cottenier)

Chicago, IL - When the owner of SK Hand Tools in Chicago unilaterally cut off health care benefits for his employees, he provoked a strike. As a result, the picket line of striking workers on Tuesday, Aug. 25, was also a health care rally. 

50 Teamsters hit the sidewalk in front of the plant at 6:00 a.m., as passing truckers blasted air horns in support. With arthritis in both knees, Sam Pope was having a hard time marching. “The concrete really hurts, but I’ll do my part,” he winced. For 15 years he had set up mills to make the inner bodies of the sockets for Craftsmen and SK brand tools. “All the union people are out,” he said, turning to join the line, which was true, as the members of Teamsters Local 743 had voted unanimously to strike. 

The chant that rose up loudest and longest was, “What do we want? Health care! When do we want it? Now!” Most in the U.S. who have health insurance get it from their employers, and for Sam with his chronic condition, there was no question that he’d fight to get it back. 

The company is demanding major wage concessions on top of stopping health care coverage without notice.  

David Biedrzycki, a union steward at the plant and employed as a welder/grinder/polisher for 25 years, only earned $8,000 this past year. He has not worked in six months and noted the irony that Claude Fuger, the wealthy French owner, returned to France recently for treatment when he became ill. France has national health care. “Claude makes $280,000 a year. He wants us to pay for health insurance, but says he can’t afford it himself.” 

Biedrzycki said “We’re not going in until Claude comes back with a fair offer.”