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On Monday, June 21st, local UAW 1887 rallied workers to picket Mallinckrodt’s pharmaceutical chemical plant located at 3601 North Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri. Mallinckrodt is a division of Covidien recently spun-off from Tyco International.  

The strike has been going on since May 1st after a non-resolvable impasse emerged as contracts expired.

At issue:

* Frozen pensions for current employees

* Elimination of overtime pay for holidays and Sundays

* Lower wages for new hires

* Elimination of medical coverage for retirees

Jim Wells, Director of UAW Region 5, excoriated Covidien for rolling back benefits and deal points while millions went to CEO Richard Meelia,

“Their CEO made over 15 million dollars last year–tell me that’s fair! Tell me that’s fair to working people! This strike is not only about 1887 (UAW local). It’s about all labor. It’s you standing up for labor and what’s right. We want justice! We want justice!”

The irony is that Covidien’s name insinuates co-equal consideration and collaboration as it’s drawn from the Latin, “co” for together, and “vi” for life. There’s nothing “together” about wages and benefits cut down for workers while Covidien’s 2008 net revenue — at the height of recession — was well over a billion dollars.

St. Louis Board of Alderman President, Lewis Reed, gave a stirring speech reminding folks that hard fought for protections were not won with a walk in the park,

“You know, this fight that you’re fighting today, is a fight for UAW, is a fight for the working men and women in this Union. But not just for UAW, it’s for America. When you think about some of the things we take for granted–you think about the 40 hour work week, you think about safe work environments, you think about vacation time and all those things that we take for granted today–those things were not brought to Americans on a bed of roses. They just weren’t. They were brought to men and women–and we take them for granted today–they were brought to us by the Unions through fights that we’re having just like here today!”

A strong economy not only involves business growth, opportunities and entrepreneurial investment, but it also means good quality Missouri jobs for lower and middle income wage earners — balance and diversification are key.

My granddad Walter was a charter member of the stagehands union and instilled in our family the value of working together. His motto? “Always use the right tool for the right job.” He made every hammer, saw, and chisel with his own hands. His values and work ethic have been a lifelong inspiration for me.

Having been a writing and publishing member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for nearly two decades, I have seen how collective bargaining, organizing and legislative advocacy have provided opportunities to our members that would have never been possible without sticking together.

Today, many people express frustration with Union bureaucracy; but the reality is that organized labor provides critical and unsung positive influences on the entire marketplace in keeping management honest for Union and non-Union members alike. When pushing for good jobs and workplace rights in an era of decreasing wages, benefits and rampant outsourcing, organized labor is the “right tool for the right job.”

Recently in the US, free-market ideology has run amok threatening to topple important checks and balances in our economy. Unregulated mania in the banking and mortgage industries born of an overreaching free-market dogma has caused great suffering and cost our nation over 8 million jobs through the recent Great Recession.

We need to roll back some of these ill-conceived trends in economic theory brought to you by fiscal opportunists, paid-off and complicit legislators. I applaud those workers on the front lines, like those I was with yesterday at Covidien, fighting for their fair share.

Jim Wells ended his speech chanting with the crowd, “One more day. One more day.”