Rocky Mountain Steel Addresses Union Allegations

Rocky Mountain Steel said it not only welcomes, but is cooperating fully with OSHA's investigation of the mill following a series of recent accidents.

Rocky Mountain Steel (RMSM), a subsidiary of Oregon Steel Mills Inc., said it not only welcomes, but is cooperating fully with OSHA's investigation of the mill following a series of recent accidents.

"We will cooperate fully with OSHA's investigation," said Joe Corvin, president and CEO of RMSM. "Our employees' safety is our top priority. In addition to the strong programs and improvements that we have already implemented, our goal is to work together with federal experts to further enhance the health and safety of all our employees."

OSHA began a comprehensive inspection last week of RMSM six days after the mill recorded its second workplace fatality in less than 10 months.

The companies response comes just days after the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) released a statement regarding the OSHA inspection.

USWA has been engaged in a long-term labor dispute with RMSM since 1997.

"It is reprehensible that the Steelworkers would want to take advantage of the tragic death of a valued mill employee to continue their campaign of lies," said Corvin.

According to USWA, the mill workers walked out in 1997 citing unfair labor practices, indignities, forced overtime, inadequate pensions, and health and safety complaints.

However, Corvin said the union's interest in safety is a new phenomenon that has appeared only recently.

Prior to the time when the mill had to hire replacement workers after the union walked out on strike, union members, and even their leaders, only attended mill-sponsored safety meetings one-third of the time.

Contrary to the union's allegations, RMSM said the two fatalities that occurred this year were not the result of "inexperienced" replacement workers. Both employees were highly-skilled, veteran employees.

OSHA did not find the company at fault in the first fatality. Authorities are in the process of investigating the second fatality.

RMSM also wanted to point out that the $400,000 fine in 1999 was based on an inspection conducted in 1996, when all employees at the mill were union employees.

The company's officials contend that safety and improvements continue to be the company's top priority, citing that it has spent more than $200 million to improve and modernize the more than 100-year old facility.

RMSM has also spent more than $4 million in direct safety improvements, according to Corvin.

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