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News ::
NECCO workers in it for the long haul
28 Aug 2002
Modified: 11 Sep 2002
"Hey, why don't you take a sick day? You have sick days!" a muscular, brown-haired man shouts through a megaphone at a car trying to pass out of the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO) factory parking lot between Central Square and MIT in Cambridge. Jim Peluso and his union, Local 264 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), are in the eighth day of their strike at the factory. The union represents about 30 machinists who are responsible for the maintenance, plumbing, electrical work, air conditioning, boiler, and shop mechanics at NECCO's aging facilities.
Kevin Brennan, shop steward and 17-year employee with the candy producer, says the union is striking for reasons of job security, health, and dental care. The NECCO factory is being sold to a biotechnology concern and NECCO is scheduled to clear out by the end of January and consolidate their Massachusetts facilities in Revere. (NECCO leases facilities in East Cambridge due to its purchase of Haviland Candy company.) The machinists have been working overtime to help convert the facilities, but NECCO has refused to negotiate with them regarding work in the new Revere factory.

The machinists have no coverage for dental care and receive no paid sick days. If they are forced to take sick days, they must still pay their contribution for their health care, as well as their employers' contribution, totaling over $150 per week.

Ramesh Diddee, an Indian immigrant who has been working at the Cambridge factory for over four years as a packaging mechanic, has taken two or three unpaid sick days a year, while Joe Lauretano, a boiler operator who has been at the plant for two years, can only remember taking two unpaid sick days in his time there. Lauretano has been working seventy-five to eighty hour weeks in recent months.

Union talks with management have been progressing slowly. Management has dropped their demand that workers change their schedule from five eight-hour days to four ten-hour days, but little other progress has been made. Production at the factory has slowed since the strike; union members conjecture they are now running eight-to-twelve hour days, compared to their normal twenty-four hour schedule. (The union is itself putting in 18 hour days, picketing from five AM until eleven PM.)

Of the 375 or so other employees at the factory, about three-hundred of them are members of the Bakery, Confectionary, and Tobacco workers' union (BCT), according to Brennan. The BCT workers have chosen to cross the picket line and continue working inside the factory. The IAMAW workers guess that the BCT workers, many of whom are immigrants, may be afraid to strike, even though they are affected by the same issues as IAMAW. Local 264 is itself a diverse union, including immigrants from Russia, Portugal, India, and Colombia. Joe Peluso jokes to Russian immigrant Yakuv Solok that he is a "real American" now that he has walked a picket line.

Beside the BCT, community support has been excellent, the workers report. Many people from the community, especially many MIT students, have come to walk the picket line and contribute sandwiches, water, and soda. Union members and other supporters honk at the workers as they pass by.

The workers are not confident that this will be resolved soon. But, Lauretano says, "we know what we're in for." NECCO, he says, "needs to treat people like human beings."
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Radio piece on NECCO strikers
30 Aug 2002
Radio piece broadcast on Thursday during the local news
edition of WMBR 88.1 FM in Cambridge.
NECCO mechanics are striking for job security and health
care benefits.
See also:
Rally Thursday September 12 (english)
11 Sep 2002
There will be a rally to support the NECCO machinists from 3:00 to 4:30 on Thursday, September 12. If you haven't supported these brave folks yet, or even if you have, this is an important time to come out. The factory is at 254 Mass Avenue in Cambridge, between MIT and Central Square.