San Anotnio Express-News
Odd alliance rattles Maxxam
Locked-out union, environmentalists raid shareholder meeting
By Roy Bragg
Express-News Staff Writer
HUNTSVILLE -- Rarely has the corporate world been more surreal.
Profit and strategy took a back seat Wednesday as a bizarre coalition of
environmentalists from Northern California and steelworkers from the
Pacific Northwest came to Deep East Texas to infiltrate Maxxam Inc.'s
annual shareholders' meeting and stage a coup.
Amid tight security, which included a phalanx of uniformed officers, metal
detectors and even a U.S. Marshal Service paddy wagon that was parked
nearby just in case, the out-of-towners focused their anger on reclusive
Maxxam Chairman Charles Hurwitz.
"Charles Hurwitz, please come out with your hands up," said protester Daryl
Cherney through a megaphone. Cherney says he's devoted 12 years to fighting
Hurwitz and operates a Web site: www.jailhurwitz.com.
Despite marshalling 1 million votes, or 25 percent of the corporation's
voting proxies, the incumbent Maxxam slate of candidates was re-elected to
the board of directors, said Josh Reiss, a Maxxam spokesman. That group
includes San Antonio attorney Stanley Rosenberg.
"It's a contest that we knew would be an uphill battle," said Jill Ratner,
executive director of the Rose Foundation, an Oakland, Calif.-based
foundation that led the proxy charge.
"We believe this is a corporation that's been out of control for years,"
said David Foster, a steel workers union official, adding that the
protesters made their point.
"Besides the New Hampshire primary, coming in second doesn't mean
anything," said Reiss of Maxxam.
Maxxam, as the Houston-based parent company of Pacific Lumber and Kaiser
Aluminum, is at the eye of a corporate hurricane of bad publicity.
Pacific Lumber is the target of angry environmentalists for cutting down
old-growth redwood trees in Northern California. The company, the state of
California, and the federal government signed an agreement earlier this
year to preserve several thousand acres, but environmentalists still are
angry that trees are being cut.
Kaiser is involved in a bitter labor dispute with the United Steel Workers,
who went on strike last year and decided to come back without a contract,
only to be greeted by a company-imposed lockout.
All of that converged at the shareholders meeting, where the real action
wasn't on the agenda.
Outside, they rallied and demanded that Hurwitz be arrested for crimes
against nature and labor.
Inside, 150 steelworkers made up half of a crowd of shareholders. The
steelworkers, who bought Maxxam stock so they could attend the meeting,
created an eerie silence as Hurwitz was introduced, then laughed derisively
and hissed as he spoke.
Many wore shirts printed with the words: "We'll survive Kaiser Aluminum's
Lock-out. One Day Longer."
When grilled on specifics by steelworkers, Hurwitz deferred to Kaiser
Chairman George Haymaker, a move that generated even more hoots from the
"You're the chairman," Leo Gerard, steel workers union secretary told
Hurwitz angrily. "You ought to be held accountable by your shareholders,
your employees and your communities."
Said Hurwitz, in one of his few comments beyond his prepared remarks:
"Kaiser Aluminum has its own management. We are not managing them. We are
not telling them to do anything."
The meeting's most dramatic moment came as Cindy Allsbrooks, mother of
David Chain, an Earth First! protester crushed under a felled tree during a
protest in the Redwoods, approached the microphone.
"I am very sorry," Hurwitz said to her.
"I have no malice in my heart," said Allsbrook, who lives in nearby
Coldspring and plans to file suit against Pacific Lumber. "I know you have
sons and you love them, too."
Instead, she asked that the company -- knowing that environmentalists are
going to trespass -- take precautions to make sure no one else gets hurt in
the ongoing process of logging and protest.
The Kaiser shareholders' meeting, which followed the 90-minute Maxxam
session, was even more boisterous.
Haymaker, hammered by steelworkers mercilessly for two hours, told the
crowd the company was doing well but would do better if the locked-out
workers would return to the bargaining table.
"That's a bunch of baloney," said Earl Glendenning, one of the
steelworkers. "They're not telling the truth."
Wednesday, May 19,1999
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