In a meeting marked by accusation and firebrand rhetoric, the Cambridge City Council last night heard testimony from three sides about the controversies surrounding the six-month long strike at Cambion Thermionic Corporation in North Cambridge.
Representatives of striking workers, management and workers who have returned to work exchanged charges of harassment, intimidation and not acting in good faith at a public hearing called by the council after a similar hearing last week failed to bring the strike situation any closer to resolution.
Sandra Polaski, president of Local 262 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union charged the council with abetting Cambion management in keeping tensions high on the picket lines.
At issue was the council's decision not to interfere with the maintenance of a special police detail at the Cambion factory. Cambion has paid the city more than $165,000 for special police protection since the strike began in April.
Four city policemen were suspended last month for terms of five to 15 days after an investigation by the City Manager's office into charges of brutality in keeping the peace.
Polaski said that, unlike companies with "modern" philosophies about strikes, Cambion has adopted a "19th century policy of union-busting" in refusing to meet with strikers at the bargaining table and in encouraging the return of "scabs."
The union has called for a moratorium of tensions, and has offered to submit to binding arbitration, she added, but the company has refused all overtures and so "continues to fail to act in good faith."
Polaski said that Cambion's refusal to act "reasonably" is good enough cause for the council to withdraw authorization for the special peace-keeping force until substantial progress is made toward a negotiated settlement.
Polaski added that among the people who really need protection are the strikers on the picket lines who have scuffled with police. Two women on the picket lines have been hospitalized following fights at the factory gates, as well as one patrolman who was knocked to the ground and kicked when tempers flared up.
A Broken Home
But a spokesman for the company management, Lowell Wilkes, vice-president of Cambion, said that removal of the police detail from the factory site would lead to an "unprecedented increase" in violence.
Wilkes expressed his dismay that Cambion, which had no labor problems before the strike began in April, has lost its "close, family-like relationship" with the workers, adding, "The issue now is vandalism and destruction" of property belonging to those few employees who have returned to work.
Beryl W. Cohen, an attorney representing the ten women who have left the strike to go back to work at Cambion, called the strikers "a bunch of gangsters" and charged that the lives of his clients are threatened each day they go to work.