The Multinational Monitor

DECEMBER 1989 - VOLUME 10 - NUMBER 12


B E H I N D   T H E   L I N E S

Colt Shot Down

On September 9, 1989, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declared the nearly four-year-old United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against Colt Industries of Hartford, Connecticut, an Unfair Labor Practices strike. The decision requires that each striker be reinstated with back pay and each "replacement worker" be discharged. Philip Wheeler, director of UAW Region 9A, called the NLRB decision "a great victory not only for the Colt strikers but for the entire labor movement." Colt, how-ever, has been granted an extension until December 29, 1989 to file an appeal.

The NLRB ruled that Colt forced the union into "an unwanted strike because the company was unlawfully undermining [the union's] bargaining and representative position." The board also found that the strike was caused and prolonged by Colt's illegal conduct, including its refusal to bargain in good faith. Unfair labor practices cited included: 1) interrogation of and threats to employees; 2) changes in payroll deductions, health insurance coverage and reduction of payments for stewards and union negotiators; 3) refusal to provide key information to negotiators; 4) proration of accrued vacation payments of striking employees; 5) denial of access to the plant to strikers seeking information necessary to negotiations; and 6) denial of reinstatement of strikers as a group and to 19 individuals. Referring to the unfair labor practices, Robert Madore, president of Local 376, concluded that Colt's "strategy is plainly aimed at destroying the union."

The labor dispute began on January 24, 1986 when over 1,000 members of UAW Local 376 walked out after Colt refused, for more than a year and a half, to negotiate a new contract. The company was calling for concessions from workers, including elimination of cost of living allowances, a first year wage freeze and elimination of some medical benefits by requiring co-payments and increasing deductibles. Colt admitted that it was not asking for the concessions because of financial difficulties, prompting Madore to call it "a strike over greed."

Following the walkout, about 200 workers returned to their jobs and Colt hired more than 400 replacement workers. On the first anniversary of the strike in 1987, the union challenged Colt to provide full disclosure of inspection reports and rates of returned weapons since January 24,1986, when production was taken over by the inexperienced replacement workers. According to Madore, "poor production by unskilled strike-breakers has been a major issue in this strike." He says that UAW "members have earned Colt a reputation as a producer of top-quality guns, both for the military and for other consumers. Poor production simply means that dangerously defective guns are being released onto the market."

The Colt strike received widespread community sup-port. Clergy, politicians, labor and community leaders formed the Community Labor Alliance for Strike Sup-port. Forty-five of these leaders, dubbed the "Colt 45," were arrested in a civil disobedience sit-down outside the main gate of the Hartford factory. The AFL-CIO called for a nationwide boycott of Colt Firearm products. And the Connecticut state legislature, followed by the cities of Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, adopted a resolution calling for an end to federal contracts to Colt until the company settled the strike.

After NLRB complaints against Colt and the company's refusal to accept the union's offer to return to work unconditionally while negotiations continued, the Connecticut Department of Labor ruled the strike a lock-out and began issuing unemployment compensation benefits to the strikers.

Tightening Sanctions

A July 1989 report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) commissioned by Senator Edward Kennedy concludes that the U.S. Customs Agency is not adequately equipped to enforce the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. In addition to a prohibition on new lending and investment and a ban on air transportation to and from South Africa, the Act prohibits U.S. imports of South African coal, textiles, uranium, agricultural products, iron and steel, gold coins and products from state-owned or controlled entities (parastatals).

To facilitate compliance with the Act, the State Department compiled a list of affected companies. But the list does not identify the specific parastatal products, making it difficult for Customs to devote special enforcement attention to them or to identify products shipped to the United States through other countries.

The GAO recommends that the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs "publish a list of the products grown, produced, manufactured, marketed or exported by each South African parastatal...."

The report focuses on the continued importation of gold bullion which, although produced by private companies in South Africa, is subject to the sanctions act because it is sold to the Reserve Bank of South Africa, a government entity, for marketing internationally. Ac-cording to the report, Customs officials were not aware that gold bullion is subject to the ban because "gold bullion is not under an explicit product ban identifying gold by name."

U.S. imports of gold bullion from South Africa were discontinued in 1987 and 1988, but some of the $339 million in gold bullion entering the United States from Switzerland and Great Britain may be of South African origin. As a result of the GAO report, Customs is investigating whether some of the gold coming from Switzer-land and the UK is of South African origin and is entering the United States illegally.

Senator Kennedy commended the GAO, saying the report identified a "shocking lapse by top Reagan administration officials who failed to apply elementary enforcement procedures in carrying out the anti-apartheid law."

In October p89, Senator Kennedy released another GAO report r mmending expanding the Anti-Apartheid Act. The 1986 law bans gold bullion but does not apply to imported jewelry primarily because of the difficulty in distinguishing the source of the gold in imported jewelry. The report cites the availability of sophisticated chemical tests to help determine the presence of South African gold in imported jewelry. Noting that gold ac-counts for 45 percent of South Africa's exports the October report suggests that expanding sanctions to include gold in all forms would seriously impact the South African economy. Said Kennedy, "the GAO study is a significant breakthrough on the sanctions issue. Many of us in Congress felt that a ban on South African gold jewelry should have been included in the 1986 law."

Generic Crime

In an attempt to Sabotage implementation of a new Generic Drug Law, the Drug Association of the Philippines (DAP) has threatened drug shortages if the Department of Health maintains its deadline of December 31, 1989 for enforcement of new labeling requirements. The new law requires all pharmaceutical products to carry a generic label, i.e., one which prominently displays the generic name of the active ingredient.

The DAP has also announced plans for legal action to block the order for generic labeling, claiming that undue financial losses will be incurred because products with old labels will have to be removed from drugstore shelves after December 31, 1989.

Philippine Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon announced that he would not extend the deadline despite the threats. Bengzon declared that the law allowed sufficient time to make the transition. He said that extensions of intermediate deadlines for label approval had been granted and that all but a few companies have already complied. The Department of Health has also allowed the use of stick-on labels to cover labels of products already on the shelf, a proposal rejected by the DAP.

The Philippine Drug Action Network (PDAN), a coalition of 15 national and 80 local non-governmental health and medical organizations, accuses the DAP of a "systematic campaign of public disinformation" to oppose the generics law. PDAN charges that several of the companies, most notably Wyeth-Suaco and Abbott, acted in bad faith by submitting their labels for approval at the last minute, submitting labels that did not comply with the guidelines and delaying revisions on the rejected labels. "These companies' mockery of the BFAD [Bureau of Food and Drugs] betrays the total lack of corporate responsibility and their arrogance toward Philippine laws."

Bengzon asserts that "the greater issue here is not simply one of extending deadlines. It is one of proper compliance to a law which was promulgated through democratic processes. It is one of protecting larger national interests against the narrow commercial interests of a few companies which choose to abuse the welcome extended them by the Filipino people to do business in this country ... "

The PDAN has called for a boycott of Abbott and Wyeth products as well as those of Wyeth subsidiaries Ayerst and A.H. Robins. PDAN maintains that substitutes are available for all these companies' products.

China's U.S. Crackdown

Citisteel USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation, was charged in November by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with anti-union hiring practices and refusal to recognize and bargain with the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). The NLRB complaint charges that CitiSteel unlawfully refused to consider hiring former employees of the defunct Phoenix Steel Corporation. The USWA urged the company, an agency of the People's Republic of China, to rectify the situation by promptly hiring former workers at its steel plant in Claymont, Delaware. In an open letter to the Chinese government, the union said: "How ironic, the People's Republic of China, which professes to be a workers' government in their own land, is guilty of suppressing workers in ours."

CitiSteel purchased the Claymont steel plant in June, 1988 from the bankrupt Phoenix Steel Company, which had closed the plant in March, 1987. Although 800 people were employed at Phoenix, CitiSteel has hired only 200 workers and plans to hire just 50 to 100 more. Of those 200, only 38 are former Phoenix workers. CitiSteel contends that it did not hire the former Phoenix workers because it is running the operation differently, and has different needs than the former management.

The USWA charges that CitiSteel, trying to avoid a unionized workforce, illegally interrogated job applicants about their union ties and refused to hire former union members even for lesser skilled jobs. Norman Hayman, staff representative for USWA District 7, says that "The NLRB's action completely supports the union's contention that CitiSteel has systematically discriminated against our members."

Furthermore, the union says CitiSteel broke a promise to fill its work force with former Phoenix Steel workers. The pledge was allegedly made by Grover Brown, a lawyer for L.H. Chang, the Hong Kong based business-man who brokered China's acquisition of the company Brown was supported by the union in his effort to per. suade the Delaware legislature to exempt CitiSteel from the Coastal Zoning Act, which bans heavy manufacturing in coastal areas, including rivers. At the hearing he said of CitiSteel, "It's their intention to utilize those former workers who have the skill and can be the most helpful it getting the plant open."

CitiSteel recently offered a small concession, agreeing to hire 25 more of the former Phoenix employees. Any former Phoenix workers hired as a result of the NLRE action will receive back pay. And if former USWA members constitute a majority of the CitiSteel workers, the union will be recognized as the representative of the workers.

"The jobs in that steel mill rightfully belong to the workers who built that plant over many years," " says John Reck, director of USWA District 7. "That's been the union's position from the beginning."

Katherine Isaac


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