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Sign the petition in solidarity with Italian metalworkers

A solidarity campaign is being organized in Italy in support of 16 union activists in FIOM (Federazione Impiegati Operai Metallurgici), the main steel and metalworkers union, who are facing disciplinary action by their own union.

The members are local-level representatives at several Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) factories in southern Italy. For months, they had been leading a struggle against hellish workloads and long work shifts, including strikes against mandatory overtime on Saturdays. The strikes were initially called by FIOM itself, but union leaders later changed course--at the grassroots level, however, members at the FCA plants continued to organize and carry out the walkouts. The 16 FIOM members also organized a committee to support the struggle at FCA that brought together members and activists from other unions and labor organizations.

Leaders of FIOM and of the Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL) used thee actions to claim that the 16 FIOM militants were violating the principles of their union--to strip them of their local leadership positions. This action calls into question not only union democracy but the right to strike itself.

A solidarity campaign has been launched, primarily inside the CGIL. The open letter published in English below is being widely circulated--it expresses support for the FCA unionists and calls on FIOM and CGIL to turn back from its disciplinary measures that have singled out 16 brave union militants and exposed them to retaliation by management. If you would like to add your name to the open letter, e-mail sindacatounaltracosa@gmail.com.


On the assembly line at an FCA plant in Melfi
On the assembly line at an FCA plant in Melfi
ON MARCH 7, 2016, the Central Committee of FIOM decided by majority vote to impose heavy disciplinary measures on 16 members of its own ranks--workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) factories. In an unusual course of action, the Central Committee decided to oust these members from union leadership positions and strip them of their ability to hold such positions in the future.

This decision was based on a ruling from an official body of the CGIL by its initials in Italian), which had been called on to consider the case by the regional leadership of FIOM in Basilicata and Molise. Having heard only the arguments of the FIOM leaders and not those of the accused, the CGIL body concluded that joining a grassroots workers' committee was incompatible with belonging to the confederation.

This committee was organized almost a year ago and brought together workers from Cassino, Melfi, Termoli and Atessa, including union members and delegates from various trade union organizations.

As the committee's founding declaration stated: "The exclusive aim of this committee is to bring together workers, for them to stand united against the divide-and-rule tactics promoted by company management, and to support common struggles. This is what can help us improve wages and working conditions inside FCA plants."

The committee never held meetings with employers, nor called a strike--it was simply meant to be a network to coordinate struggles, one of the many coalitions that CGIL delegates or bodies take or took part in (from "self-made delegates", to local branch or sector committees and the so called "social coalition" promoted by the FIOM)

These unionists' only offense was to call for strikes against mandatory overtime on Saturdays, in opposition to the attitude of FIOM leaders. A group of local branch representatives was opposed to "giving up the only means that FIOM and its members have to resist bosses' arrogance," as 30 union members at FCA wrote in a letter dated April 1.

"The workers have supported us for always waging the struggles that we think are right, rather than the ones that are easy! This is where we have to start from again for our sacrifices to one day become victories. We are the last guaridans of democracy in a world, like the FCA's, where the law ends at the gates."

Any strike that was then called by these comrades was in their capacity as FIOM representatives, in constant touch with the workers at their own plants.

If disciplinary measures like the ones accepted by the CGIL representatives were implemented, it would be tantamount to expulsion from the FIOM. Worse, with FCA run according to the anti-union attitudes of CEO Sergio Marchionne, workers who are struggling against the company could be left without protection.

Since we have always upheld workplace democracy and defense of trade union rights, we believe this must be avoided at all costs. The ousting of the representatives on the front line against the Marchionne model at FCA--whether among the bulk of them at Termoli and among many others in other plants--would be a break with the history of the FIOM, and with the defense of pluralism and union democracy.

This cannot and must not occur. We demand that the FIOM and the CGIL retreat from their actions and open up to a discussion with these unionists and workers, based on an assessment of the politics and the merits of the situation.