Workers Want to Testify Without Retaliation

USWA is calling for company's promise that it will not retaliate if workers tesify to health and safety problems.

Workers from Oregon Steel's Rocky Mountain Steel Mills subsidiary (RMSM) held a protest and news conference last Thursday in Pueblo, Colo.

The workers wore gags to protest RMSM's refusal to promise not to fire or retaliate against workers who alert government officials, the media or the public to health and safety problems at the company's mills.

According to the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB), Oregon Steel has a history of retaliating against workers who speak out about dangerous conditions at the company. The NLRB has charged the company with harassing and retaliating against employees prior to the 1997 unfair labor practice strike.

Apparently, the company is now attempting to muzzle employees from testifying before the California Legislature regarding defective rail products and health and safety violations in the company's Pueblo plant, and air pollution at the company's Portland, Ore. and Pueblo, Colo. mills.

Dave Kins, United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Subdistrict 5 subdirector, called on RMSM and its president, Joe Corvin, to provide written assurance as soon as possible that the company will not retaliate against workers "who participate in the democratic process by appearing at the legislative hearing."

"Unfair labor practices, indignities, forced overtime, inadequate pensions, and health and safety complaints at the plant caused the workers to strike in 1997. Events since then have proven the workers concerns were well-founded," Kins told the news conference last Thursday.

"Since the strike, the company has been found guilty of more than 100 health and safety violations. No wonder they don't want the public to know what's going on at the mill," commented Kins.

Citing the company's past threats, harassment and retaliation against workers active in the Union, and numerous health and safety problems, USWA Local 2102 President Ernie Hernandez told reporters, "The company operates with a 'production first, safety afterwards' philosophy which places higher profits before workplace safety. Workers have been severely injured. These are all reasons why workers need to be free to speak out without fear or retaliation."

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