The Guardian 24 August, 2005

US: Thousands of messages
flood Gate Gourmet

"I’ve never seen anything like this before", writes Eric Lee. "In the past, when we’d launch an online campaign, we’d aim to get the first 1000 messages to the employer or government within the first day or two. We didn’t always succeed, but a rate of 25 messages per hour wasn’t bad."

On August 10, in an extraordinary display of corporate bullying, the company which provides British Airways with its in-flight meals at Heathrow Airport sacked some 800 workers — using a megaphone. . Some 70 percent of the fired catering workers are Asian women. At press time, efforts by the Transport and General Workers Union to win the workers’ reinstatement and a raise in pay were still under way.

In response, baggage handlers at Heathrow — members of the same union as the Gate Gourmet workers who had just lost their jobs — walked off the job in solidarity. Within hours, the entire airport was essentially shut down, stranding thousands of passengers and costing millions of pounds.

And yet the company, the American-owned Gate Gourmet, refused to consider reinstating the sacked workers and negotiating a fair deal with the union.

According to some media reports, the company deliberately provoked its own employees in order to rid themselves of "troublemakers".

The dispute was widely publicised in the mass media in Britain, Australia and elsewhere, and is being covered extensively on the union activist website, LabourStart.

The workers last week appealed through their union, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), and their global labour federations (the IUF and ITF), for help.

An appeal for messages to be sent to Gate Gourmet was posted on the LabourStart website and circulated on the internet. "Tell them to talk to the union and to reinstate the sacked workers immediately", the appeal said. "That will take you all of 60 seconds."

The response was phenomenal said Eric Lee of LabourStart.

"We went from 0 to 1000 messages not in 40 hours, but in four. At one point, we were delivering 30 protest messages a minute from all over the world. The intention was to flood the company with thousands of email messages from around the world, to show our support for low-paid workers who have lost their jobs in the most brutal manner."

Some 5000 messages reached the employer in the first three days.

The messages are also going to the TGW, ITF and IUF.

"The workers know how much support they have from their brothers and sisters around the world. If any of you have ever walked a lonely picket line, you know how important gestures of solidarity like this one can be", said Mr Lee.

"Your messages are making a difference." Keep them flowing.

"The workers at Gate Gourmet are counting on you. Remember: an injury to one is an injury to all!"

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