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Global union protests shake Huhtamaki

25 November, 2014Workers facing rights’ violations at the Huhtamaki packaging plant in Commerce, California have received solidarity support from their co-workers and union activists across the world.

A global week of action initiated by the United Steelworkers (USW), an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, took place from 17 to 21 November. All the actions were united by a strong demand to respect the legitimate rights of Huhtamaki employees in the workplace, to work in safer conditions and to get better wages.

The actions supported the demands of workers at the Huhtamaki plant in Commerce, California who are asking the company to meet with a democratically elected worker committee to address grievances over health and safety and discipline.  The company has refused to meet and instead brought in a “union-buster” consultant to intimidate the workers. 

120 protesters, including leaders of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, USW Huhtamaki Council and District 12, joined workers from the Commerce plant to demonstrate in Los Angeles, U.S. at a Chipotle restaurant, a major customer of Huhtamaki. The unions have also launched an online petition targeting Chipotle http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/chipotle-make-sure-your.fb51?source=s.icn.fb&r_by=4305145.

Through the call from global union federation, IUF, the European trade union representatives at Nestlé, another major Huhtamaki customer, also voiced their demands for Respect for All Huhtamaki Workers.

In Finland, where multinational Huhtamaki is based, leaders from IndustriALL affiliates Paperiliitto, PRO and TEAM and professional union YTN at the union-organized Hämeenlinna plant publicized the violations faced by Huhtamaki workers and expressed their solidarity with U.S. co-workers. Activists from IUF affiliates PAM (private services) and SEL (food industry in Finland echoed their solidarity actions.

In Australia, Huhtamaki workers at the Preston site in Melbourne had a sticker day on 18 November and sent messages of support to their fellow workers. Photographs of these actions were forwarded to the leadership team of the Huhtamaki Group.

In Russia, the Timber and Related Industries Workers Union, an IndustriALL affiliate that is fighting to get recognition at a Huhtamaki factory near Moscow, jointly conveyed their solidarity to their brothers and sisters in Commerce.

In Poland, Huhtamaki workers received solidarity support from the union Solidarnosc.

IndustriALL Turkish affiliate the Petroleum, Chemical and Rubber Workers’ Union (Lastik-Is) activists sent a letter to the local and central Huhtamaki management in Turkey to express their outrage about the situation in U.S. and convey their support to the Huhtamaki workers.

In Nairobi, Kenya, Africa regional women activists from the IUF sent their greetings and solidarity to the Huhtamaki workers, as did leaders of UNI Global Union’s Graphical & Packaging Division. Staff members at IndustriALL’s head office in Geneva, Switzerland also joined in with the protest against the violations.  

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, says:

"Our strength is in our unity, and this global week of action proved it once again. Only together we can withstand pressure of global companies and get better conditions and pay for our members and their families. Huhtamaki workers are not alone and numerous actions of solidarity during this week demonstrated the readiness of unionists from all over the world to stand up and give a helping hand to their colleagues right when they need it. The fight is not over, we will not stop until we get full Respect for All Huhtamaki Workers!”

Follow the Huhtamaki workers’ campaign on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RespectforAllHuhtamakiWorkers