April 14, 1999
Workers call hires by Kaiser illegal
Attorney on a mission joins Steelworkers' fight
OLYMPIA, WA -- Locked-out steelworkers again are pushing state officials to
investigate whether Kaiser Aluminum illegally hired out-of-state workers to
run its plants during the strike.
Tuesday, an attorney who has made it his life's work to bring down the
businessman who controls Kaiser joined the action during a rally of about
400 locked-out workers from Spokane and Tacoma.
Eureka, Calif., attorney Steven Schectman charged that when Kaiser hired up
to 40 laid-off timber workers from Pacific Lumber Co. to replace striking
Steelworkers, the timber folks collected benefits from Pacific Lumber and
were considered by lumber company executives to be "on loan."
Schectman offered the state Attorney General's Office a videotaped
deposition from another court matter that shows Pacific Lumber CEO John
Campbell acknowledging those points.
Schectman, whose law office is dedicated solely to lawsuits against Pacific
Lumber and its parent company, Houston-based Maxxam Inc., said the
deposition suggests that either the two companies are linked, or Pacific
Lumber violated state law by recruiting out-of-state workers on Kaiser's
"What company would do that for another?" Schectman asked during an
interview. "On one hand, (Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz) claims Kaiser,
Pacific Lumber and Maxxam are legally independent. But when it suits his
purpose, they're part of the same team."
Maxxam owns a controlling interest in Kaiser.
Kaiser spokesman Scott Lamb dismissed the accusations as "extraordinary
minutiae irrelevant to the main issues of the strike.
"It's certainly no secret that Pacific Lumber sent folks up to Spokane to
help out with the labor dispute," Lamb said from the company's Houston
headquarters. But "we violated no law."
Lamb said he didn't know whether Pacific Lumber workers were allowed to
keep their medical and pension benefits, as Schectman claims.
But he said the law Schectman cited makes it illegal for a third party --
such as an outside firm -- to recruit out-of-state workers on behalf of a
company involved in a labor dispute. Kaiser has the right to hire temporary
workers "from any place it can find them," Lamb said.
Lamb also said the relationship between Pacific Lumber and Kaiser "is
simply one of affiliate companies. They have separate management teams,
Maxxam spokesman Josh Reiss said Schectman is just carrying out an obsession.
"Why is Mr. Schectman in Olympia, Washington?" Reiss asked. "Because his
livelihood depends on suing Pacific Lumber. It's his mission."
Regardless, officials from the state Attorney General's Office said that
because the issue is a criminal matter, they have no authority to act.
Responsibility to investigate falls to Spokane County Prosecutor Steve
Attempts to reach Tucker were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Martha Lantz, an assistant attorney general with the Department of Labor
and Industries, said the 1961 law both sides were referring to has never
been interpreted by a Washington court.
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