Federal Government Charges Kaiser with Labor Violations in Ongoing Lockout

“The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has formally charged the operating subsidiary of Kaiser Aluminum Corporation with illegally locking out 2,900 USWA members to pressure and coerce them into accepting the company’s unlawful bargaining proposal, according to the United Steelworkers of America.The formal complaint, issued by the board’s Oakland, California office last Friday, also charged Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation with unlawfully discriminating against employees to discourage membership in a labor organization, and with failing and refusing to bargain in good faith with the union as required by federal law.As part of the remedy for Kaiser’s unlawful actions, the government will seek full back pay and benefits from January 14, 1999, the date the company began its lockout, and has set a hearing date of Nov. 13, 2000, in Oakland, California for the company to answer the charges.David Foster, director of USWA District 11 and the union’s chief negotiator with Kaiser, noted that the federal case against the company will proceed in spite of a tentative agreement between the company and the union to arbitrate an end to their contractual dispute, which was announced recently in Minneapolis.Our membership at Kaiser has received good news on two fronts, Foster said. First, we know that there is a date certain on which our members will return to their jobs at Kaiser. And now we know that the federal government intends to prosecute the company for its illegal actions and seek restitution from Kaiser for unlawfully locking out our membership for 18 long months.USWA members struck Kaiser Aluminum on September 30, 1998, and offered to return to work on January 13, 1999. On January 14, 1999, the company locked out over 2,900 USWA members at its plants in Tacoma and Spokane; Gramercy, Louisiana; and Newark, Ohio.Recently the union and company announced a tentative joint agreement on a process to bring the 21-month labor dispute to an end.Kaiser also recently began a temporary curtailment of aluminum production at the Tacoma and Mead smelters due reportedly to high electricity costs.The curtailment resulted in the layoff statewide of approximately 400 temporary workers, or scabs, who were replacing union workers at the two plants during the dispute.Kaiser also was assessed fines totaling over $500,000 by the federal government for safety and operational violations regarding an explosion at its Gramercy plant.”