Today's press release:
Contact: David Foster (612) 623-8045
John Duray (412) 562-2477
For immediate release
'Kaiser Needs To Change,' Union Bargainers Assert;
Stalled Bargaining a Result of Company's 'Inability to Manage'
MINNEAPOLIS, December 13-The bargaining logjam and unfair labor practices
that have forced 3,100 members of the United Steelworkers of America to
strike at five Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. plants since September 30
are the direct result of an 'inability to manage' by top Kaiser officials,
union bargainers charged here today.
"We welcome Kaiser's declaration that the company intends to formally
respond to our December 1 proposal on Thursday, and that Kaiser will, for
the first time in these negotiations, present us with a detailed an
comprehensive proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement," said
David Foster, USWA District 11 Director and the union's chief negotiator
"But the fact remains that Kaiser has been promising us a comprehensive
proposal 'any day now' since the second week of the strike, and it's taken
the company nearly three weeks to respond to our last proposal - if, in
fact, the company can manage to actually do what they say this time."
Union bargainers said that, if the company does present a comprehensive
proposal, it would be a step forward in the negotiations. But they also
noted that, based on Kaiser's past record in these negotiations, they remain
skeptical of the company's ability to formulate and present a proposal that
can serve as a basis for resolving the dispute.
"Kaiser needs to change," Foster asserted.
"[Company president] Ray Milchovich has been complaining for months that
Kaiser needs to improve its productivity - an assertion that we have not
disputed, and a process in which the union stands ready to assist.
"But what Milchovich can't seem to grasp is that the union's contract with
Kaiser contains fewer restrictions than its contracts with any other major
aluminum company," Foster added.
"If Kaiser has, indeed, been unable to initiate the same kinds of
productivity improvements that companies like Alcoa and Reynolds have
instituted, then the problem is clearly an inability of the company's top
officials to manage, and not some vaguely defined reference to 'contractual
restrictions' which don't exist," he said.
Presidents of the five striking USWA local unions were unanimous in saying
that Kaiser has demonstrated "an appalling insensitivity to the needs of the
company's employees - workers who earned the company $168 million in
operating profits last year, and who achieved 'best ever performance' at all
The USWA's unfair labor practices strike has curtailed production at Kaiser
plants in Spokane and Tacoma, Washington; Gramercy, Louisiana; and Newark,
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