June 19, 1999
Advertisements challenge Kaiser CEO
Hurwitz the target of Steelworkers' newspaper insert campaign
Karen Dorn Steele -- The Spokesman-Review
Spokane -- "This is a story about greed."
That opening salvo introduces a glossy, eight-page advertising insert that
the United Steelworkers of America is circulating in Spokane as part of its
corporate campaign against Kaiser Aluminum.
Its target: Charles Hurwitz, CEO of Maxxam Inc., the Houston corporation
than controls Kaiser, now in the ninth month of a bitter strike and lockout.
The ad accuses Hurwitz of clearcutting ancient redwoods in California and
threatening thousands of union jobs at Kaiser plants in Spokane, Tacoma,
Ohio and Louisiana.
It also asks readers to contribute to the Steelworkers' "Stop Hurwitz
The inserts appeared Wednesday in both The Inlander, Spokane's weekly
alternative newspaper, and the Valley News Herald.
Kaiser officials are unimpressed with the Steelworkers' ad campaign, said
Susan Ashe, Kaiser spokeswoman.
"It's full of half-truths and misstatements. Blaming Charles Hurwitz for
the labor dispute is like blaming Bill Clinton for El Nino," Ashe said.
"This is paid political speech," said Herald advertising representative
Fabian Medina. "We took this insert primarily for the money. We're a small
paper and we need revenue."
The Valley Herald called Kaiser officials before the insert ran.
"We told them it didn't mean we were leaning either way, editorially. But
they were pretty angry with us," he said.
"We weren't angry," Ashe said. "They were trying to sell us ad space to
answer the Steelworkers. We said `no thanks.' "
The Steelworkers paid about $1,000 to have the insert placed in 20,000
copies of the Herald.
Attacking Hurwitz isn't going to end the strike and lockout, Ashe said.
"The only way the labor dispute is going to get settled is at the
bargaining table," she said.
The Spokesman-Review's advertising department rejected the insert a month
ago, said Dan Sampson, a Steelworkers organizer at Kaiser's Trentwood plant.
"The Spokesman told us the circular was demoralizing and libelous. I feel
we got censored," Sampson said.
"Censorship is something the government does," countered Shaun Higgins,
director of marketing and sales for The Spokesman-Review. "We are a
business. We have a legal responsibility, and we work hard to provide
fairness and balance. We felt the specific attack on Charles Hurwitz went
beyond what we thought was fair game."
The newspaper told the Steelworkers they could reword the ad and resubmit
it, Higgins said. "If they'd made a few changes, we would have accepted
it," he said.
"Why would we do that?" asked Jim Woodward, a Steelworkers organizer in
Auburn, Wash., working on the union's corporate campaign against Kaiser.
"We think there was nothing libelous in there. Charles Hurwitz is a public
figure, and he's subject to criticism from a group his actions affect,"
The Spokesman-Review has accepted paid political advertising from both
Kaiser and the Steelworkers during the current strike and lockout, Higgins
But John Duray, Steelworkers spokesman in Pittsburgh, said the Spokane
daily is the only newspaper in the cities where Kaiser has plants to demand
rewrites of Steelworker ads.
The Steelworkers are now taking their Hurwitz insert to the state's largest
newspaper. It will run soon in the Seattle Times with minor modifications,
"It's costing us $24,000. It will probably run in July," he said.
The only change the Times requested was to identify more prominently on the
insert that it's a paid advertisement, Woodward said.
The Times always requires prominent mention of who's paying for the ad,
said Bill Bridges, the Seattle Times account executive handling the
*Karen Dorn Steele can be reached at 459-5462 or by e-mail at
Return to Home