The following is a solidarity statement by members of Corriente Obrera and Workers’ Voice/La Voz de los Trabajadores in support of the striking members of BCTGM Local 37, who returned to their jobs at the Rich Products plant in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., this week after a protracted strike.
Following a strike that lasted some 113 days, the courageous union workers at the Rich Products-owned Jon Donaire desserts plant in Santa Fe Springs, located in the Los Angeles area, returned to work on Monday, February 28 for the first time since November. The end of the strike comes after the workers’ union—Local 37 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM)—approved a new four-year contract with the company on February 23. The workers at the plant manufacture ice cream cakes for major retailers, including Walmart, Baskin-Robbins, Safeway, and other chains.
As reported in our November article on the strike, the workers at the Jon Donaire plant first walked off the job in the early morning hours of November 3. The strike started out as a largely self-organized affair. After years of stagnant pay, abuse by sexist male managers, and speed-up, the workers at the plant—who are overwhelmingly Latina immigrants, many of them working mothers—decided that enough was enough. They organized themselves to take action and, with the backing of their union, walked off the job en masse to win better wages, changes to the company’s abusive and punitive point system, and other demands.
In terms of the settlement that ended the strike, it appears that the agreement is somewhat mixed. Workers forced management to improve the pay offer initially proposed by the company before the strike. This said, the workers fell just short of winning their modest demand of a $1-an-hour raise for each year of the new contract. Beyond that, the workers maintained their current health insurance package. They also won some improvements to the company’s point system.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the strike, however, is the fact that the workers maintained their solidarity and unity throughout their nearly four months on the picket line. The workers spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day together on the 24-hour strike line, set up in front of the struck Jon Donaire plant. They marched together and chanted as a group in opposition to the company’s abusive managers, who brought in scabs to the plant in an attempt to restart and maintain production at the facility. And on December 17, the strikers overwhelmingly voted down a contract proposal by the company that failed to meet their demands. Throughout the struggle, the workers showed great courage, bravery, and grace. The strikers went without paychecks, instead receiving small weekly strike payments provided by the union, in order to stand together and fight one of the richest privately-owned companies in the world.
Despite the obscene wealth and power of the company, Rich Products could not break the resolve of the workers. While the company attempted to run production with the use of scabs and managers, they were unable to come close to the high production levels normally maintained by the workers at the plant. In addition, throughout the strike, the company struggled to maintain sanitary conditions on the plant’s production lines – a product of the steadfast support for the strike by workers from the plant’s sanitation crew. As a result of this, the company had to continuously throw out pallets of unsanitary cakes made by scabs throughout the strike.
The members of Corriente Obrera and Workers’ Voice/La Voz de los Trabajadores send our solidarity and respect to the courageous working-class fighters of BCTGM Local 37 as they return to their jobs at Rich Products. Hold your heads up high and keep up the fight! Stick together and don’t let the bosses keep you down! Fight to organize the unorganized at the Rich Products plants in Torrance, Santa Ana, and elsewhere!
The BCTGM strikers at Rich Products have provided an example of courage and determination for the working class of Los Angeles, which has for too long been quiescent in the face of declining living standards and relentless attacks by the bosses. Along with the UAW strikers at the Senior Aerospace SSP plant in Burbank and the Teamsters strikers at two waste hauling yards owned by Republic Services in Orange County, workers at Rich Products have sent a message to workers elsewhere: There is power in our unity as workers!
Ultimately, the strike at Rich Products provides hints of the path forward for the working class as a whole. In order to challenge the power of the bosses and improve our lives, we will have to build democratic, membership-run unions based on the principles of class struggle unionism.
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common!
The working class produces all of society’s wealth! We deserve all of what we produce!
Workers make the world run! We should run the world!
Only through solidarity and workers’ power will we be able to build a better world for all working people!
Photo by Myung J. Chung / Los Angeles Times