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Bushwhacking Ahead.

PRODUCTION WORKERS AT A U.S. JEWELRY MANUFACTURER took on Nafta and won, but tomorrow's battles may be tougher

* After Quadrtech Corp. told about 120 minimum-wage assemblers in Gardena, California, that it was relocating to Tijuana, Mexico, the workers headed to court. Quadrtech, they claimed, was illegally moving to kill their union-organizing campaign--a tactic that studies indicate has become increasingly common since Nafta.

* In such cases, courts tend to side with employers. But in what one labor researcher calls an "amazing decision," a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled in favor of the Quadrtech workers, who were represented by lawyers from the National Labor Relations Board. Judge Carlos Moreno issued a preliminary injunction preventing Quadrtech from moving.

* "He said the right to be organized was worth more than the right of the employer to use the threat of corporate mobility," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.

* Quadrtech, which had already started to truck equipment across the border, decided against an appeal and will stay in Gardena.

* Bronfenbrenner believes the Quadrtech workers have set an important precedent: "The next time an employer makes a threat to move, employees will say, 'Wait a minute, look what happened at Quadrtech.'"

* Maybe. Workers will still have to persuade the National Labor Relations Board of the validity of their claims--and that could be tougher under the Bush administration. "Will the Bush board be a very different board?" asks Bronfenbrenner. "That's the question."
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Author:Heller, Matthew
Publication:Latin Trade
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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