By DAVID BERNT
CHICAGO-About 1050 workers at the utility company People’s Gas voted to go on strike on May 18. The workers, members of the Gas Workers Local 18007 of the Service Employees Union, rejected a recent contract offer from management by a margin of 612-306.
The contract called for changes in work rules that would allow People’s Gas to downsize maintenance and repair crews by half, and the dismantling of clerical, warehouse, and meter repair departments, among other cutbacks. The downsizing could cost hundreds of jobs and would create a safety hazard for workers and consumers.
People’s Gas has brought in over 200 scab workers, while union members have set up pickets at People’s Gas headquarters in downtown Chicago and other company locations.
Since 1998 People’s Gas has reduced workers’ numbers by 200. Furthermore, People’s Gas has seen an increase in profit of 15 percent over the past year while workers’ real wages have decreased by 8 percent over the same period of time.
The Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), an organization composed of students from several campuses who support labor struggles, plan to send student delegations to the picket lines in solidarity with the Gas Workers.