Negotiations resume in Pacific Steel strike

Police square off against protesters. Photo: Michelle Vitetta

The two clashing sides in the Pacific Steel Casting strike returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday, a day after Berkeley police resorted to tough tactics to push back a group of strikers from a warehouse on Fifth Street.

On Tuesday, about 100 strikers gathered outside a warehouse to prevent a truck filled with parts from the Pacific Steel foundry from leaving. Police attempted to clear away the protesters and a pregnant woman claimed she was struck in the stomach by an officer during the confrontation, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley Police Department. She was treated at a local hospital and released.

“Today at a couple points, CMT (Crowd Management Team) members were asking the crowd/picketers to move back, stop blocking the roadway and the entrance to the shipping/freight business,” Sgt. Kusmiss wrote in a press release. “The crowd was asked to get back and many warnings were given. Each time a member of a skirmish line moves forward as a group, they are trained to say, “Move!, Step Back. Move.!” Force was used. A woman (who shared that she was pregnant) was at the front of the crowd and was pushed back on the shoulder a couple times by a CMT member. The crowd began to surge and the woman said she was struck in the stomach by an officer.”

Pregnant Pacific Steel worker struck by police. Photo: Michelle Vitetta

While the three plants of Pacific Steel are on Second Street, the strikers have been focusing their protests on a warehouse owned by another company, according to Ignacio De La Fuente, a vice president of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union and an Oakland City Council member. The owners of Pacific Steel, the Delsole family, in anticipation of a strike, moved completed steel components to this third-party location so they could be trucked out, he said. The workers have been trying to prevent the parts from being shipped, he said.


Elisabeth Jewel, a spokeswoman for the company, has said the company will have no comment about the strike or labor negotiations.

Carlos Costa, the local union rep of Local 164B, which represents the workers, said Tuesday that he expected the company to serve him shortly with a subpoena. De La Fuente said the company is trying to get a temporary restraining order against the strikers. He said the company had hired more than 50 private security guards who deliberately confronted the strikers on Monday. There was a film crew on hand to tape any fights, which De La Fuente said could be presented to a judge in support of a TRO.

A federal mediator has been appointed and is working to bring the two sides to an agreement, said De La Fuente.

About 470 workers walked off the job Monday at midnight after contract negotiations broke down. The company is asking its employees to pay a higher share of their medical costs. Union officials said the co-pay’s proposed are so high they would amount to a 10% salary reduction.

Related:
Workers from Berkeley’s Pacific Steel go on strike [03.21.11]