Thousands Turn Out to Honor Fallen Workers
COTTAGEVILLE, W.Va. (AP) _ A rally on behalf of workers idled by a 6-month-old labor dispute drew more than 5,000 people from five states, plus the governor, a congressman and the heads of two national unions.
More than 1,700 steelworkers have been off the job at Ravenswood Aluminum Corp. since Nov. 1, when union and management officials failed to agree to a new contract. The union said it was willing to work without a contract while a new one was negotiated, but the company hired replacement workers.
″We have to stop this kind of outlaw activity by American corporations,″ said Lynn Williams, president of the United Steelworkers of America.
Companies like Ravenswood are destroying communities by hiring permanent replacement workers, he said at Sunday’s rally.
Ravenswood contends the steelworkers are on strike, but the union says its members were locked out.
Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., told the crowd a vote on federal legislation banning the permanent hiring of replacement workers could come within a month. Organized labor has been pressing strongly for such legislation.
The use of permanent replacement workers is ″a short-term gain and a long- term loss,″ said Wise.
Union members from Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri joined West Virginians at the rally at the Jackson County Junior Fairgrounds.
″I came here because I’ve got work and I want to keep it,″ said Terry Allbright of USW Local 2936 in Auburn, Mass., who came with 40 other union members.
Special recognition was given during the third annual AFL-CIO Worker’s Memorial Day to five union workers who died at Ravenswood since 1989. 100,000 American workers who die or are injured each year in workplace accidents.
″Health and safety is something every one of us has to be deeply concerned about,″ Gov. Gaston Caperton said. ″Today, we’re not only here to mourn those people who have died, but to rededicate ourselves to eliminating human suffering that occurs every day. We have to fight for the living.″
Ravenswood spokeswoman Debbie Boger said today the company remains committed to its replacement workers.
″The position we have taken all along as far as our safety record is that we are still in negotiations. Our commitment to the replacement workers remains the same,″ she said.
″We will negotiate with the steelworkers any time they want to,″ she said. ″But our commitment to the replacement workers will remain.″
Ravenswood Aluminum is owned by Charles Bradley, co-owner of Stanwich Partners Inc.; Willy Strothotte, president of Clarendon Ltd.; and Ravenswood chairman Emmett Boyle. Stanwich and Clarendon are Stamford, Conn.-based investment firms.