CHICAGO — You meet the nicest people at peace rallies. Two members of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 484 from Meredosia, Ill., drove four hours to the Windy City to be part of the labor contingent at the March 18 Iraq war protest and to get out their story.

“Our hands may be cold but our hearts are warm,” said Bob Glenn, one of the Boilermaker Road Warriors, the union’s rank-and-file group, to the crowd at Union Park. “It’s not only Bush we have to fight, but the multinational corporations too. We’ve got to take things back from them. We all may be here with different programs, but we have to stick together.”

This union brother added his working-class wisdom gained from his own experience.

The Boilermakers union has been locked out since June 5, 2005, by Celanese Emulsions Ltd., a top industrial chemical corporation headquartered in Dallas. It has turned Meredosia, a community of 1,100 located on the Mississippi River, into a class war zone.

There are 150 workers at the chemical plant, which was once owned by National Starch and Chemical. When Celanese came in, it set its sights on union-busting. Management told the union they would reduce wages by 33 percent, eliminate the maintenance department, cut vacation time and drop other hard-won benefits.

“‘Take it or leave it’ was their attitude,” said the other rank-and-file Road Warrior, Claude “Corky” Lemmon. This brother had worked for 33 years at the plant and has no health care now due to the lockout. “Thank goodness my mortgage is paid off,” he said.

Celanese brought in a goon squad, Special Response Corp., whose “thugs have harassed” union families, according to the Road Warrior leaflet. SRC’s “campaign of terror” includes videotaping union members’ homes and children playing in their yards. “These illegal activities are overlooked by the local sheriff’s office,” the leaflet says.

A local judge signed an injunction limiting union activity including on the picket line.

Local 484 members have a reputation for being active in their community, volunteering for rescue squads and fire departments, as well as participating in health fairs, hospice benefits and other worthy causes. Use of their union hall is donated to groups such as Girl Scouts and 4-H. It is used as a polling place during election times.

In August 2005 the union filed a charge against Celanese with the National Labor Relations Board for failing to bargain in good faith and provide requested information. The board’s national Division of Advice issued a memo to the union March 17 that said the lockout was “unlawful from its inception.” The local newspaper, Journal Courier, ran a front-page story titled “Plant lockout might be illegal” in its March 18 issue. The boilermakers carried it with them to the Chicago rally.

The Road Warriors are ready to carry their message to unions and organizations to raise solidarity and support. You can help. Call the Celanese ethics hotline at (866) 348-4223 and tell them to return to the bargaining table in good faith. Contact Local 484 at (217) 584-1916 or tenab@boilermakers484.org, or visit www.boilermakers484.org.

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