St. Ambrose plan to house scab labor draws fire.
From the Q.C. Times:
St. Ambrose University has been “besieged with calls” this week about its agreement to provide housing for Alcoa’s salaried replacement workers in the event of a union strike, the school’s president said.The article also notes that a QC lodging association is upset at not getting some of the business to house the scabs.
And he wants people to know the university is listening.
St. Ambrose President Ed Rogalski said Thursday that the Davenport school is trying to reach out again to Alcoa’s Steelworkers union and others, hoping to heal the rift between them about St. Ambrose’s recent decision to partner with Alcoa.
“We’re listening to the concerns that are being expressed and we’re weighing all these matters thoughtfully,” he said.
The agreement gives Alcoa access to about 150 vacant dormitory rooms, with space to house about 300 salaried workers — visiting from other Alcoa plants — who would replace union workers if they strike at the Davenport Works plant in Riverdale, Rogalski said.
Negotiations for a new labor agreement between Alcoa Inc. and the United Steelworkers got under way Thurday in St. Louis. The current labor agreement, which covers 9,000 employees at 15 Alcoa plants, is set to expire May 31.
Alcoa will rent the rooms at a rate “below what they’d be paying for retail,” Rogalski said.
The situation has upset not only some union members but also various St. Ambrose alumni members, who say the idea goes against Catholic social justice teachings that support the fundamental rights of workers to join unions and seek decent wages.
The college, as far as I’m concerned, is choosing sides,” said Jerry Messer, president of the Quad-City Federation of Labor, adding that his phone has been ringing off the hook about the matter. “It’s against everything they believe in. This is nothing but greed.”
Messer said union members most likely will picket St. Ambrose, if Alcoa’s replacement workers are housed there. He said it doesn’t matter to him that the workers would be Alcoa employees from other sites.
“They’re still scabs,” he said. “When you’re replacing a worker on strike, they’re scabs.”
The deal came after Jerry Kavanaugh, a liaison between St. Ambrose and Quad-City union building trades workers, contacted Rory Washburn from the Tri-Cities Building Trades Council and Skip McGill from the Steelworkers, Kavanaugh said.
McGill said he is staunchly against the agreement, but Washburn said building trades workers will continue construction work on St. Ambrose’s campus, regardless.
“We support the Steelworkers, but we’ve got an agreement at that particular site,” Washburn said. “The construction work up there has been 100 percent union, so we’re going to support him through the endeavor. We do support the Steelworkers, too.”