June 16, 1999
Kaiser workers get pep talk
Labor official blasts CEO of company that owns Kaiser
by Hannelore Sudermann -- The Spokesman-Review
Kaiser's locked-out Steelworkers got a supportive pep talk Tuesday from a
top officer of the AFL-CIO.
More than 300 people filled the Carpenters Union Hall on Mission to hear
Richard Trumka, as secretary-treasurer the second-highest-ranking AFL-CIO
This strike has caught national attention, Trumka said. "I can't think of a
trip I've been on where Kaiser wasn't mentioned as an example," he said.
For the company, it's an example of what not to do. For the union workers,
it's an example of solidarity, he said. "There's a real admiration for the
About 3,000 Steelworkers at five Kaiser plants have been off the job since
Sept. 30, when they went on strike over their unresolved labor agreement.
The strike became a lockout Jan. 14 when Kaiser rejected the union's offer
to return to work under the old contract.
Kaiser is a company that workers built, Trumka said. "Good wages, good
benefits, fair contracts and stable labor relations," he said. But then
Charles Hurwitz and his company, Maxxam, bought the aluminum manufacturer
and, "Today Kaiser is a company that everyone looks down on ... Charles
Hurwitz is tearing it down."
Kaiser's majority shareholder, Hurwitz, is to Kaiser "what Hannibal Lecter
is to gourmet dining," Trumka shouted to the audience.
Trumka closed his speech pledging support from the AFL-CIO member unions.
"We're standing together brothers and sisters," he said. "Working together,
striking together and beating Kaiser Aluminum together."
Some Steelworkers said Tuesday they were happier out on the picket lines in
90- to 100-degree heat than they would be in the plants.
"At about 5 o'clock at night, it will be about 130 degrees in there," said
Rocky Brumbaugh, who worked at Trentwood's soaking pits, where aluminum is
preheated before it is rolled flat.
"At Mead it's probably up to 180 (degrees)," said Guy Dickinson, who first
worked at Mead, where aluminum is smelted, then transferred to Trentwood.
Compared with those conditions, he said, the shadeless picket lines are a
breeze. "We're enjoying the summer."
Plants have been operated with supervisors, retirees and replacement workers.
Most of the locked-out workers have been getting unemployment payments
since January. And for most, the payments expire in August. Then, several
said, they are hopeful the union and the company will get back to serious
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