NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. – On Feb. 1 Carousel Linen strikers and 100 supporters rallied across the street from the sprawling industrial complex of global pharmaceutical monopoly, Abbott Laboratories.

Abbott is Carousel’s last remaining large client and it refuses to take its laundry elsewhere until the strike is over.

The 40 industrial laundry workers, mostly Mexican immigrants and young women, have now endured four months on the picket line against Carousel for the right to join a union, livable wages, safe working conditions and health benefits.

So far Carousel has stonewalled in the face of an overwhelming majority of workers who are determined to never return to a sweatshop.

“Abbott Labs accounts for 40 percent of Carousel’s business,” Lynn Talbot, UNITE regional vice president, told the crowd.

“Abbott is loaded. They earned $16 billion last year. Yet they are the cheapest, sleaziest company because they have their laundry cleaned in a sweatshop. These workers will stay out another four months if that’s what it takes.”

So far Abbott has refused to even meet with the union. Talbot announced plans to step up the pressure by picketing every Abbott dinner and exhibition until they withdraw their business.

“Let the doctors know what dirty linens they are eating off of,” she said.

The strikers were joined by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has become a regular at picket lines around Chicago.

“These workers are fighting for justice,” he said to loud cheers.

“Abbott makes billions under the mantra that their drugs save lives. They can’t be good corporate citizens as long as they use filthy linens cleaned by scab workers. We will unmask them before the public.”

Consuelo Toledo, strike captain and the mother of a small child, said, “This struggle has not been easy for us and our families. But it’s not easy to work under those conditions. That’s why we are here.”

Toledo urged continued support for the strikers. “We need the union. It’s the only way to get respect to meet our needs.”

Also speaking was Hank Perritt, a candidate for Congress against right-wing incumbent Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

Perritt initiated a letter to Carousel signed by over 500 community and religious leaders, candidates and elected officials from Lake County, demanding an end to sweatshop conditions.

“America was built by immigrants. No American should stand for it when a foreign-born worker is mistreated,” said Perritt.

A delegation that included strikers, union leaders and Rep. Gutierrez delivered a gift to Abbott CEO Myles White, a tablecloth emblazoned with the message “Washed in your community in a sweatshop.”

For information on the strike and find out about future actions to pressure Abbott Labs, call Joe Costigan, UNITE political director at (312) 738-6140.