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Solidarity Forever: Texas AFL-CIO Joins Texas Teamsters on the Picket Line in Fort Worth

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The Texas AFL-CIO visited the Molson Coors picket line last week in Fort Worth, where 420 workers have been on strike for seven weeks.

 Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar, Director of Operations & Special Projects Lee Forbes, and Director of Communications Ed Sills walked the picket line, talked with workers, and delivered a check from the state labor federation to the Strike Fund. In addition to Teamsters, we compared notes with Brian Golden, Angi DeFelippo, and Marc House of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council.

 We can report morale is good, the line is running 24/7 at five gates, a Scabby the Rat inflatable is in place, and the workers are enthusiastically in the struggle for the duration. Again, and as always, we stand in solidarity with Teamsters Local 997 and call on Molson Coors management to negotiate in good faith toward a fair contract.

 Local 997 President Justin Southern told me the company’s initial offer was a 99-cent per hour raise in the first year. “Six or seven weeks later, they came back with a nickel (more),” he said, “and nothing else that we asked for.”

 Southern said talks are not currently taking place, though the union is ready and willing to continue negotiations. “We’re willing to talk whenever the company is ready, but five cents is not talking,” he said.

 “The International said they will keep us out for as long as it takes. General President Sean O’Brien said he will keep us out until we get the right contract for us.”

 Southern said a union boycott against the company’s products will be highlighted at this weekend’s NCAA Men’s Basketball championships in Dallas, climaxing a campaign that Teamsters have waged throughout the tournament. Actions will also continue at vendors of the company’s products across the U.S. 

 The picket line has been a subject for the courts, Southern said. When the strike began, the security company hired by Molson Coors agreed to allow five minutes per car or truck for picketing, after which the picket line would clear space for vehicles to enter the premises from a freeway access road. At one point, it was taking eight hours for the morning vehicles to enter, so the company went to court and got a judge to reduce the time to 90 seconds. A later clarification by the judge: During shift changes, the union must allow entry or exit of up to 10 vehicles every 90 seconds. And if three or more trucks are awaiting entry at any time, they must let them in together. 

 During our time there, dozens of trucks entered, with a Teamster using a timer to count out 90 seconds before the line stepped aside. It was orderly, and the 90-second pause, while not five minutes, definitely sent a message.

 “The line has been holding strong,” Southern said. “I was worried when the company came back with that insult (the nickel offer) after six weeks, but all it did was piss off our members more…It actually built up morale here….”

 Tanya Walker Montgomery, who has worked for Molson Coors for more than 20 years, told me that as a former employee of Lear, she was associated with four previous strikes. “But this is the first time I’ve actually picked up a picket sign…so I do know what it takes to be joined, and unified, and know what it is to…stick together.”

 Walker Montgomery said her mother retired from the plant after 46 years, and when she first clocked in, she was able to get the same benefits as her Mom. But newer workers are on a different benefits tier, she said, and one of her goals in a new contract would be to raise benefits for newer employees.  

 “We all believe it should be unified. We want the Brotherhood and Sisterhood to be the same. No more division.”

 Demear Warner, also a Molson Coors employee, described the work that still happens when workers walk. He said strikers come out six hours every other day, a half-hour on the line, sometimes in rough weather, and a half-hour of rest.

 How long is he willing to stay out? “Whatever it takes, 24/7, Warner said.” Effect on family? “Right now, my family, my friends, everyone out here with me, we’re working with the Teamster Strike Fund, so that’s helping us cope at this time without drawing on the bank.”

  For photos of the visit, check out: