MAC: Mines and Communities

Laid-Off Kennecott Workers File EEOC Charges and Rally to 'Reverse the Outrage'

Published by MAC on 2003-09-03

Laid-Off Kennecott Workers File EEOC Charges and Rally to 'Reverse the Outrage'

3 September 2003

Salt Lake City, Utah - Forty eight of the 120 Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. (KUC) workers who laid off only two days after their unions (members of the Kennecott Coordinated Bargaining Committee - KCBC) ratified contracts with KUC on June 23 - filed discrimination claims with the Utah State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and rallied Wednesday, Sept. 3, claiming the layoffs were in violation of their civil rights.

They charged to EEOC representatives that they had been laid off in retaliation for legitimate union activities, and that they were discriminated against for reasons of age, ethnicity, and gender. The EEOC is still receiving complaint forms and expect to receive several each week in the coming weeks. Harold Stephens of the EEOC said he has never seen this many complaints filed at one time.

The respective unions of the KCBC are also filing discrimination grievances and unfair labor practices charges under their contractual rights and processes of the National Labor Relations Act in separate actions.

Those charges allege that KUC discriminated against union members and retaliated against them because: they are union officers and activists, and/or they had been disabled, and/or they were legally using the workers' compensation system and/or their rights under the Family Medical Leave Act had been violated.

Another action has been filed with the Utah Labor Commission by a military veteran who was laid off without notice while on active reserve duty.

"We are filing these claims to tell Kennecott CEO, Bill Champion and his bosses at Rio Tinto that we will not rest until these outrageous, illegal layoffs are reversed and Rio Tinto's Utah managers abide by a legally-binding contract and the law of the land," said United Steelworkers of America District 12 Director Terry L. Bonds. Bonds is chair of the Kennecott Coordinated Bargaining Committee and led the KCBC in negotiations. "Bill Champion and his boss, Rio Tinto CEO Leigh Clifford, need to understand that we will not go away until these workers receive justice."

After filing the complaints, about 75 active and laid-off Kennecott workers participated in a rally at Popperton Park, which is near the home of Kennecott CEO Bill Champion. Signs at the rally pointedly asked - "What makes a Champion? Discrimination? Retaliation?

Amalgamated Transit Union 382 arranged for a bus to transport rally-goers from the Labor Center (where the EEOC charges were filed) to the rally. The bus driver, an ATU member, donated her time.

Union Members Speak-Up at Contamination Hearing

Salt Lake City, Utah - On Wednesday September 10, 2003, the State of Utah Natural Resource Damage Trustee held a public hearing. The hearing was to propose and to receive public comment on a ground water cleanup project. The water has been contaminated from mining activities at Kennecott Utah Copper.

About 30 Union members (over 1/2 of the crowd) attended the hearing. Diane Heminway (USWA) spoke and addressed some areas where the proposal fell short. She said that it would allow selenium and other heavy metals to enter the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake and continue to damage wildlife and the environment.

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