The “human resources” departments of huge corporations are known for issuing helpful bulletins to employees, such as this old joke: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”
Beatings of workers these days take the form of slashing wages and benefits, offshoring jobs, busting unions, and generally disparaging and disrespecting the people who produce their products. It’s a heck of a way to run a business.
Consider the hellacious greed of Glencore, the 10th largest corporation in the world. Never heard of it? That’s no surprise — it doesn’t put its name on much. But it’s one of several mega-corporations in the new global economy that snarf up brand names and suck out profits.
Glencore, a $233-billion, Swiss commodities conglomerate, gobbled up the Sherwin Alumina metals company in 2007, buying it from the Alcoa aluminum corporation (which, in 2001, swallowed the aluminum producer Reynolds).
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Caught in this frenzy of corporate feasting are 450 Sherwin Alumina steelworkers in Gregory, Texas. They’re top-quality producers of aluminum. In 2014, however, the highly profitable Swiss conglomerate rewarded their productivity by demanding deep cuts in their pay and benefits.
When the members of the Steelworkers union rejected this insulting proposal, Glencore’s henchmen locked the 450 workers out of the plant, hoping to break their morale and bully them into accepting the raw deal.
But this ploy only intensified the workers’ resolve to reject such gross unfairness. They turned their picket line into a symbolic stand against global corporate elites who’ve adopted anti-worker thuggishness as a normal business practice and a core corporate value.
Now Sherwin Alumina has filed for bankruptcy, but these workers aren’t letting them off the hook: Their union secured a place at the table among the company’s creditors. The gutsy steelworkers in Gregory, Texas aren’t only standing up for themselves — but also for you, me, and workaday people everywhere.