On July 11, around 900 Canadian Auto Workers of Local 2169 walked off the job and struck Boeing of Canada Ltd. at the Murray Park facility in Winnipeg.
The union negotiators extended the date of a strike for two weeks. Within minutes of pickets going up, Boeing had trucks rolling in to remove tools and work to other facilities. A strike captain named John said he felt Boeing may move some of their work to Boeing of Wichita. When 50 strikers protested and blocked entry of the trucks, police moved in. The cops' aggressive actions inflamed the picket-line. Soon 34 police cars and 50 officers were on the scene. The police formed a huddle and advanced on the striking workers and launched a barrage of uncontrolled pepper spray on the picketers. At its peak the line swelled to about 300 strikers.
Some newspaper headlines called the police "a gang of animals." A witness said police weren't provoked and gave no warning before discharging pepper spray. Police were videotaped by a bystander beating and spraying already subdued workers. One man was hospitalized for pepper spray inhalation and others received egg size lumps on their heads, fat lips and bruises on their backs. At one point 4 officers sat on one striker while another officer continued to beat him. In all, 13 CAW members were arrested. Several strikers were placed in a police van after being sprayed with pepper chemicals. Workers were flailing on the floor and vomiting. "The arrested workers began to yell for help as they couldn't breath and couldn't see.
Boeing striker John Haarstad thought he and his fellow pickets were going to suffocate in the police van. When an officer finally opened the door one striker stuck his head out to get some fresh air and the cop sprayed him right in the face with pepper spray again. Many are calling for a full investigation of the police brutality. The CAW members are battling Boeing over the "Continental Work Week" which means more weekend work and split days off. Also, 12 hour days are being discussed in some areas. Other issues are sub-contracting, pay and pension benefits.
Submitted by Don Grinde, Boeing Seattle, IAM District 751
The CAW can be reached at:www.web.apc.org/caw/ or email C.A.W.
CAW strike HQ Ph: 204-889-4231 Fax: 204-487-2214