November 3, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
Workers at the electronic company, Versatronex, held a demonstration last Thursday in front of the Sunnyvale company to protest working conditions there. They have been picketing the company for over a week.
The workers have been on strike since the 16th of October. The electronic chip assembly workers, most of whom are Latino, say that the work conditions there have become intolerable.
The beginning salary at Versatronex is a mere $4.25 per hour and generally remains at that level for at least a year. Even after years (7) of work the salary will barely reach seven dollars an hour.
The company supervisors are said to demand increasingly faster production which, on most occasions, the workers have been able to achieve, but not without great stress and with no additional financial reward for the workers.
One worker, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said that, even after four years, her hourly salary is now only $5.90 per hour. She added that they do get two weeks-vacation but they have no have health benefits.
The workers have one week of sick leave, after which the company will hire another person to replace them.
The workers are also protesting, the continued use of glycol ethers, chemicals that have been found to produce increased rates of miscarriage among women. This is a very serious matter since a majority of the workers are young and female.
A recent study conducted by IBM 5 found that glycol ethers caused 1 in 3women of the women who worked around this chemical to suffer miscarriages.
The industry has resisted for years any study regarding the effects of glycol ethers and it is likely that the full extent of its effect on all workers exposed to this chemical is not yet known.
According to reports, some of the dangers (increased miscarriages) of this chemical are now known, but some chip makers have to acknowledge that fact.
Last Thursday, the workers aided by the support of worker advocates from Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose assembled a delegation to speak to the company President, Peter Brocco, following the demonstration. They were denied access to him.
The rain poured down on the demonstrators Thursday, but it did not deter them from the objective of their assembly.
The workers not only want improved working conditions, but are protesting the firing of one of their co-workers, Joselito Munoz, who, several weeks ago, accepted the managements invitation to discuss issues of importance to the company. Munoz, at that meeting, had asked that Versatronex management improve worker conditions. He was subsequently ﬁred. His co-workers want him rehired.
Another Santa Clara Valley electronic ﬁrm was also accused of taking advantage of its workers by the participants at the rally. The company, USM, recently ﬁled for bankruptcy – owing its workers two months of pay. The workers were mostly Americans of Korean or Mexican ancestry.
Those workers were also underpaid and worked without health beneﬁts as well.
Such accounts of low salaries and harsh working conditions in the Santa Clara Valley is alarming when many local companies are reported to be leaving the Valley because of the “over-regulation and the high salaries demanded by U.S. workers.” It is not pleasant to imagine what the working conditions must be like in those other countries that do not have a tradition of social justice.
Versatronex hired a “union busting” law firm, Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff and Tichy to help them in their case against the workers; Littler and Mendelson is a San Francisco based law firm.
Besides general community support for the computer assembly workers; the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), Service Employees International Union Local (the Janitors union) and the USM Workers Committee based at the Korean Resource Center, among others, have joined the disputeover better working conditions.
Wearing rain gear, the demonstrations managed to convey their message to passing motorists, many of whom honked in support to the strikers as they passed. The strikers will need all of the help that they can get-since success in forming a Union would likely encourage other beleaguered electronic assembly workers to follow suit.
Several supporters of the group were confronted by the Sunnyvale police for honking as they left the demonstration. The police claimed that one of the demonstrators, a woman, was wanted for failure to take care of a previous auto accident “Teresa” says that she was not in an accident.
Bette Wachter, spokesperson of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said that this was another example of “big business taking advantage of the workers” and that her group would opposed such conduct.
The demonstrators, at the conclusion of the demonstration, chanted in Spanish “What do you want? A Union! When? NOW!
La Oferta attempted to talk to the company owner and President. Mr. Brocco, but neither he nor his secretary were “available.”
In these hard times, work conditions must really be intolerable for workers to be willing to go on strike – especially when they know that the company has already fired one of their co-workers for merely speaking up at a company meeting that was organized to discuss such issues.
If you wish to learn more about these grievances contact Bumshik Eom at the Korean Resource Center (408) 452-7642, the Santa Clara County Center for Occupational Safety and Health at 998-4050 or the United Electrical, Radio and Machinists Union at 723-2839. © La Oferta Newspaper.