Times Standard 12/4/1998
PL strikebreakers stir debate
Aluminum mill taps sister company for help
By Chris Hunt
SPOKANE, Wash. - Kaiser Aluminum Co. is tapping into its
Maxxam Inc. roots for help in keeping its smelting and processing
plants operating during a United Steel Workers of America strike,
a company spokeswoman said Thursday.
Susan Ashe, Kaiser's Northwest Public Affairs Manager, said
the company readily asked out-of-work Pacific Lumber Co.
employees to come to Spokane, Wash., to help with plant
operations. About 2,100 Kaiser employees are striking, she said.
Ashe said PL allowed Kaiser to recruit out-of-work employees -
both companies are owned by Maxxam Inc., which is, in turn,
controlled by investor Charles Hurwitz. She also said that many
laid-off PL workers volunteered for the work, which Ashe said
pays anywhere from $13 to $18 an hour. PL employees are not
Union officials said Wednesday that Kaiser is paying $25 to $30
an hour to strikebreakers, which supposedly include homeless peo-
ple off the street willing to do the work.
The dollar figures being circulated by the union are simply
strike propaganda, Ashe said.
According to Ashe, the company's two aluminum plants in
Spokane, a plant in Tacoma, Wash., a plant in Newark, Ohio, and
one in Grammarcy, La., are being operated by Kaiser management,
retired employees and "temporary workers," which include the
former PL employees. Kaiser is the second-largest employer in
The strike started the night of Sept.30 after the union rejected a
contract offer from Kaiser. According to Ashe, the company of-
fered union employees a 15 percent increase in wages, but did ask
for "production improvements."
According to the union, the company wanted to replace union
workers with contract workers, increase medical costs to pension-
ers and eliminate bonuses.
And, according to Ashe, the company was prepared for the strike.
She admitted the company advertised for strikebreakers,
commonly called scabs by, union workers, weeks in advance of the
"We had a strike in 1995," Ashe said. "It was the first strike in
company history, and we weren't prepared for it. It lasted eight
days. This time, we were prepared. In order to operate, we needed
to upgrade our manpower, and we did recruit some workers from
Northern California. Many of the (PL) workers were laid off and
they expressed interest."
The unemployed PL workers are filling in for general laborers,
electricians and crane operators,. among other positions.
"We're going to run our plants," Ashe said. "Just as the union has
the right to strike, we have the right to operate our plants. "Ashe
said there might a be slight impact on the productivity of the
Kaiser plants in Spokane but she said both are operating at or near
"We have not missed a beat meeting customer demand, she said.
Other than the local timber' workers laboring in the aluminum
plant, Ashe said there are no ties between PL and Kaiser.
Maxxam Inc. owns about 63 percent of Kaiser, but Ashe said
Maxxam and Hurwitz have no input on day-to-day operations.
[Picture: More than 150 striking union steelworkers from Kaiser Aluminum
in Spokane, Wash.,
march through Scotia Thursday. Striking workers from Kaiser, which is
owned by Maxxam, are
in Humboldt County to picket their parent company. Workers have been
threatened with layoffs
and face increased benefit costs. Maxxam also owns Pacific lumber Co.]
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