Kaiser strike coming to end

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / July 8, 2000

GRAMERCY – One way or the other, the 21-month old Kaiser Aluminum strike by the United Steelworkers of America will end by its second anniversary. Inaddition, if things go their way, returning strikers may end up with 21 months of back pay.

Kaiser and the union jointly announced a tentative agreement to set negotiations on the path to end the strike. The agreement calls forratification by the union membership and calls for the two sides to continue negotiations for the next 28 days.

Should these negotiations fail to reach a conclusive agreement the remaining issues will be sent to binding arbitration, which will end the strike by the end of September 2000. The idea of this is to break the logjam of issues whichfroze any advances on the talks for months.

A ratification vote in Gramercy is set July 12 on the arbitration agreement, and the votes will be tabulated the next day, according to union spokesman Sam Thomas in Gramercy.

David Foster for the union added, “We know that there will be a date certain upon which our members will return to their jobs at the Kaiser plants whether through negotiated agreement or mandatory arbitration.”Kaiser spokesman Jeremy Sherman added, “We believe this agreement with the USWA will be fair both to our company and our employees. We lookforward to the end of the dispute.”Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board announced on Wednesday it has formally charged Kaiser with illegally locking out its employees “to pressure and coerce” them into accepting the company’s unlawful bargaining proposal.

The NLRB complaint also charges Kaiser with unlawfully discriminating against employees to discourage membership in a union and with failing and refusing to bargain in good faith with the union, as required by federal law.

As part of the remedy for the actions, the NLRB will seek full back pay and benefits, dating back to Jan. 14, 1999, the date of the lockout. A hearingdate of Nov. 13 has been set in Oakland, Calif., for the company to answerthe charges.

Foster commented of this news, “Our membership at Kaiser has received good news on two fronts. First, we know that there is a date certain onwhich our members will return to their jobs at Kaiser. And now we know thatthe 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.”

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