USW Members at Asarco Testify to United Nations Official: U.S. Labor Laws Negatively Impact the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell (412) 562-2446

(Pittsburgh) -- USW members at Asarco this month provided testimony to Maina Kiai, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur tasked with visiting various countries and evaluating their citizens’ rights to peacefully assemble and form associations.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Council affirmed these freedoms in October 2010 and established the position of Special Rapporteur to assess access to these fundamental human rights. This includes the right to establish religious associations, political parties, and activist groups, as well as the right to freely form labor unions and bargain collectively.

Since May 2011, Kiai has visited Georgia, Rwanda, Oman, Kazakhstan, Chile, Korea and the United Kingdom. This is the first time the United States has been evaluated by the Special Rapporteur.

USW members from Asarco in Tucson, Ariz., and workers attempting to join the USW at Novelis in Oswego, N.Y., told Kiai about their struggles to assert their right to union representation and the ways in which U.S. labor laws hinder their abilities to form associations.

USW members at Asarco began negotiations in May 2013 and worked for nearly two years on an extended contract until June 2015. The contract was then terminated, and they have since been working without a contract.

In the meantime, Asarco owes union workers more than $10 million in bonuses tied to the price of copper that the company refuses to pay, despite an arbitrator’s finding in favor of the workers.

Asarco is using both the length of the bargaining process and the deliberate withholding of earnings from certain segments of the work force to sow discord among union members. Numerous unresolved unfair labor practice charges, each of which can take months or years to be decided, also hinder union members’ right to freely bargain.

“The length of this process shows that Asarco is more than willing to spend money on attorneys—money they could be spending paying their workers a fair wage,” said USW District Director Bob LaVenture.

“This is not about money for the company. It’s about union busting. And the lengthy appeals process on board charges, coupled with weak penalties for breaking labor laws, encourages companies like Asarco to try to use slow bargaining and unfair labor practices to try to break the union rather than recognize their members’ rights to form associations.”

Workers at Novelis are similarly struggling with protracted appeals that the company is using to delay bargaining a fair contract.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

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Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

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Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

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