USW’s global campaign supports Crown Holdings strikers in Toronto

What does dedication, commitment, teamwork, and personal accountability get you? Not much if you work for Crown Holdings, the world’s leading producer of cans used to package food and aerosol sprays.

Workers at Crown’s factory in Toronto were recognized by the company with an achievement award for their “dedication, commitment, teamwork, and personal accountability.”

But when it came time to renew the workers’ collective bargaining agreement, Crown got down to business. Instead of rewarding the workers’ productivity with a fair contract, the company demanded concessions.

Among other things the company demanded an end to the workers’ cost of living allowance, implementation of a two-tier wage system that would pay new workers less than current employees for the same work, and the continuation of its nine-year freeze on workers’ pensions.

Had the company been struggling to make a profit, the workers might have been willing to consider the concessions, but Crown’s profits nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012.

The concessions demanded by Crown left the 120 United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9176 members at the Toronto plant no choice but to strike, and for the last eight weeks the workers have remained on strike.

Crown is an international company with headquarters in the US. It employees 21,900 people and operates 149 factories in 41 countries.

To support Local 9176, USW launched an international “Take Backs No More” campaign, which includes united actions with Crown workers in Turkey who are trying to organize a union.

The most recent Take Backs No More action took place at the headquarters of Carnival Cruise Lines in Doral, Florida.

Carnival was  in the news last year when the Costa Concordia, a ship owned by one of Carnival’s subsidiaries, went aground off the coast of Italy killing 30 people.

The CEO of Carnival is Arnold Donald, also a member of Crown’s board of directors.

USW  members on October 30 passed out a leaflet about the strike at the Carnival headquarters. Among other things the leaflet showed how cutting workers’ wages as proposed by Crown could hurt Carnival’s business. Additionally, the leaflet urged Carnival CEO Donald to bring an end to the strike by supporting a fair contract for Crown workers.

USW said that lack of action by Donald could hurt Carnival.

“Donald’s role in the Crown strike is bringing unwanted attention to Carnival at a time when the company is recovering from numerous setbacks and blows to its image due to the Costa Concordia disaster and other major incidents of cruise ships malfunctioning at sea, stranded passengers and on-board fatalities,” said USW in a press release.

Twelve days earlier, an international delegation led by Local 9176 member Mike Cruttenden demonstrated at Crown’s European headquarters in Baar, Switzerland.

“We asked for a fair and honest contract, and you (Crown) asked for relief,” said Cruttenden at the demonstration. “Workers gave you relief nine years ago (when Crown froze pensions), but you’re still asking for relief even though you doubled your profits.”

In 2011, Crown reported net earnings of $282 million, which increased to $557 million in 2012. As of June 30, 2013, Crown has reported net earnings of $275 million.

During this time, Crown has been generous to its stockholders. Between 2010 and 2012, Crown spent $824 million on share repurchases.

After the demonstration in Baar, Cruttenden left for Turkey to attend a rally by Birlesik Metal-Is, Turkey’s metal workers union.

Workers at the Crown plant in Kartepe, Turkey voted to join Birlesik Metal-Is, but Crown has refused to recognize the union.

On October 21, Birlesik Metal-Is held a rally at the plant.

“In spite of all pressure and intimidation by Crown management, workers have chosen to have a union and the Ministry of Labor recognized Birlesik Metal-Is as the authorized union which Crown cannot pretend not to see,” said Adnan Serdaroglu, president of the Turkish union at the demonstration. “Even though Crown tries to stall our bargaining process using anti-labor legislation, we do believe that workers will win, not just here in Turkey, but also in Canada and elsewhere in the world.”

“As a striking worker since the beginning of September, I am proud to see such worldwide actions,” said Cruttenden at the demonstration in Turkey. “Crown management must hear this rising voice of the workers worldwide.”

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