New Bedford: We Won't Let One Job Go (fwd)

Spoon Collective spoons at jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Mon Jun 3 21:18:03 MDT 1996

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 3 Jun 1996 21:17:52 -0500 (CDT)
From: Chegitz Guevara <mluziett at>
To: "lists -- Conference" <iww-news at>,
    Marxism <marxism at>,
    Marxism 2 <marxism2 at>,
    cflist <marxchat at>, SLDRTY-L <SLDRTY-L at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
Subject: New Bedford: We Won't Let One Job Go (fwd)

Marc, "the Chegitz," Luzietti
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Workers Win Second Round in Fight to Keep Factory Open

By Steve Gillis
Member, Steel Workers Local 8751 Executive Board
New Bedford, Mass.
Bedford, Mass.

On May 23, hundreds of workers and community supporters overflowed the
City Council Chambers in New Bedford, Mass.  It was the latest episode in
a continuing mass mobilization to save 120 jobs in this impoverished city.

The occasion was the second reading of a city council resolution using
eminent domain to seize a local factory.  The first vote took place May 9.

The resolution had to pass a second time to take effect.  It passed.

Prodded by the workers and their union, the council voted eight to three
for the ordinance authorizing the city to seize the J.C. Rhodes factory by
eminent domain.

Rhodes' corporate parent, Kohlberg & Co., has slated the plant for
shutdown. The workers--in fact, the entire community--have other ideas.

Along with members of United Electrical Workers Local 284, which
represents manufacturing workers at the plant, 34 non- union workers
turned out for the May 23 council meeting.  Most of them are women
clerical workers.

Sheila Olson, a receptionist with 16 years in the plant, told Workers
World, "We're sticking with the union."

Even 200 local business owners have signed letters supporting the fight to
impose eminent domain.


Workers World spoke with UE Local 284 Vice President Ronnie Gobeille about
what's at stake.

"Four months ago," Gobeille said, "Kohlberg, which owns the Scoville
Fastener Co. in Georgia, bought J.C. Rhodes.

"March 21 was my 30th year in that plant. On March 25 they called the
union in, gave us all layoff notices, and offered $10 per month of service
as severance pay.

"Then they told us they would start moving out machinery on May 16 to
their plants in Georgia, where there isn't any union, and shut our plant
down by June 25.

"We've got one-of-a-kind dyes and presses here that do deep-draw and
metal-stretching work. We're the sole supplier of lots of electronic
parts, Eveready battery studs, fasteners used in hospitals.

"We decided right there that Scoville's got no right to take our jobs and
our plant for any amount of money.

"J.C. Rhodes has been here for over 100 years. Now, management has never
been all that friendly. But we're not letting them leave.

"You can count on that."

Local 284 Treasurer Bob Rock added: "New Bedford's lost over 15,000 jobs
in the last 10 years. Our union's determined not to let one more job leave
this town."

Kohlberg & Co. is owned by the country's seventh-richest person, who is
also a major contributor to the Democratic Party. The company has worked
furiously to break the community's resolve to keep the plant open.

After the May 9 council vote, Kohlberg's battery of corporate lawyers
filed court papers calling eminent domain unconstitutional. They served
subpoenas on all 11 city council members.

Intimidated, the mayor threatened to veto the ordinance.  Two council
members switched their votes.

During heated debate at the May 23 session, Council President George
Rogers blasted the three as "corporate white knights" and "traitors to the
people of New Bedford."  He vowed the council would override a mayoral
veto with the necessary eight votes.

Joining Council members Gomes and Forbes in denouncing Kohlberg's plan as
a "corporate ripoff" and "theft of our city's property," Council member
Smith drew rousing cheers by calling on the city to "sue J.C. Rhodes for
planning to abandon us after years of tax breaks and water and sewer

As required by Massachusetts state law, the city is conducting an
appraisal of the plant, and soliciting bids and offers from businesses and
the union to raise money to compensate Kohlberg for the property. However,
the appraisals of the plant's "fair market value" are coming in
considerably lower than what Kohlberg paid for it.


Meanwhile, the workers are taking steps on the streets and in the plant to
reinforce the legal battle.

Local 284 President Carl Olsen told WW: "There's one family that has 270
years--four generations--in that plant.  There is no way, after all we've
put into that plant, after all the profits we've produced, that we're
letting them take one screw out of town.

"We're filing an injunction to stop these corporate pirates from moving
equipment, while continuing to operate and monitor the plant from inside.
We've also set up a trailer at the gate, and we're guarding our property
24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"If they start to move one piece of machinery, we've got other plans to
stop them in their tracks."

The struggle to save the jobs at J.C. Rhodes has sparked widespread
support--especially among New Bedford's African American, Cape Verdean,
Portuguese and Italian immigrant communities. All have been hit hard by
plant closings in the shoe, leather, textile, metal-parts and fishing

New Bedford has a rich heritage of labor struggle, going back to the 19th
century. This town is where some of the first unions in these industries
were organized.

Now another kind of battle is under way here. It could have repercussions
for workers in many other cities and industries, facing the same threats
of shutdowns and layoffs.

On May 9, a mass rally of over 400 people at the city council meeting had
won the preliminary eminent-domain vote.  Since then, a petition
drive--backed by the NAACP and a group of local clergy along with the
UE--collected 24,000 names supporting the eminent-domain ordinance.

Solidarity messages have also arrived from Steel Workers in Boston, Auto
Workers in Detroit, and even unionists in Japan.

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO is also supporting the struggle.  This is
significant because the UE has not been affiliated with the AFL-CIO since
it was ousted during the anti- communist purges in the labor movement in
the 1950s.

                         - END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source
is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY
10011; via e-mail: ww at For subscription info send message
to: ww-info at Web:

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