The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Chicago-Area Metal Workers Strike

Apr 3, 2023

Over 120 workers at Metal-Matic walked off the job on February 22 to fight the company’s union-busting tactics and their attacks on wages and health care benefits.

Metal-Matic is located in Bedford Park, just southwest of Chicago. It’s owned by PTC-Alliance, which operates in Illinois, Ohio, and Minnesota and manufactures steel tubing used in the auto, railroad, and agricultural industries.

Members of UAW Local 588, the strikers are fighting for their first union contract. After years of organizing, on June 10, 2021, a successful vote in the plant certified the union. But since then, the company has been driving hard to scuttle, derail, and delay contract negotiations.

Picket lines are up 24/7, and manned in four-hour shifts. One of the picket captains summed it up: “They’ve been us for years and pushing against a union, then we won one fair and square and now they won’t even talk to us serious!” He explained how the company brought in scabs—managers and office people to run the machines. He said there are rules that prevent them from blocking the driveway, and the scabs have been sneaking by. The company sends threatening letters to the homes of striking workers while engaged in a campaign to decertify the union.

Shop chairman John Drury said, “They ... want to cut our wages by $4 per hour if we don’t learn three additional jobs in a year.” Another striker explained: “... in most cases that’s not even possible. It’s a cover to force us to work harder and longer. But that’s not safe for us!”

Juan, another striker, who is diabetic, said the company plan to cut health benefits is devastating for his family. “They want to increase the deductible for a family to $4,000. We had a hard time in the past when it was $1000!”

Several truckers leaving the CSX rail yards honked in support of the strike as they passed. Juan said: “We can use a lot more support like that,” and noted how the strike has received no publicity in the mainstream press.

Many strikers said they appreciate the solidarity and support they have received, mostly from rank-and-file workers and unionists. Picket lines have included auto, transit, railroad, and airport workers, and teachers.

Strikers are urging supporters to show solidarity by joining their picket lines at 7200 S Narragansett Ave in Bedford Park.