Workers Want to Testify Without Retaliation

Dec. 20, 1999
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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EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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