May 17, 2004
Five thousand two hundred workers at the Fiat plant in Melfi, Italy have just ended a three week strike. It was over issues familiar to workers in this country: their wages were lower than at other plants in the same company, and the speed of the assembly line was unbearable.
The strikers forced the company to get rid of its current work shift of 12 nights in a row, gaining two days between shifts. And they brought management to narrow the wage gap. The strikers didn't get all they wanted. And – as here – they had to face union leaders who tried everything they could to bring the strike to an end. But it was a real victory for the workers.
This was the first strike in this factory, where Fiat had bragged it had a new style of industrial relations ... which just meant worse exploitation.
The workers showed they had a new style too – out on the picket line.
Other groups of Italian workers have entered into struggle recently, including workers of Alitalia, the airline company, and public transit workers who struck in numerous cities last December and January. It shows that anger against the bosses' and the government's policies can be contagious – and so can the decision to take militant action.