New System laundry strike ends after two days

Rain was heavy but spirits were high as New System laundry workers walked off the job the morning of Nov. 28.

Workers at New System Laundry returned to the job Nov. 30 after two days on strike.

The strike was called after the company proposed to pay minimum wage to its overwhelmingly female Vietnamese and Chinese workforce in negotiations over a new union contract with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49. New System also wants to double the employee contribution to health insurance premiums to $213 a month.

New System does laundry for hotels, hospitals, and restaurants. During the walkout, groups of three to eight workers visited the company’s clients to introduce themselves, explain the strike, and ask for symbolic displays of support. Local 49 then tweeted pictures of workers, managers and owners at over a dozen restaurants holding signs saying “I support New System workers.”

Dozens of community supporters also turned out to walk the picket line with strikers, including Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek.

An overwhelming majority of the 71 members of the bargaining unit took part in the strike, but a handful of workers remained on the job.

At press time, there was no word on whether further strikes are planned. The next negotiation session, aided by a mediator, was scheduled to take place Dec. 13, after this went to press.

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