USW: Lockout Raises Safety Concerns at Sherwin Alumina

Company’s Shoddy Record, Inexperienced Work Force a Dangerous Combination

Contact: Ben Lilienfeld: (832) 556-0370, blilienfeld@usw.org

GREGORY, Texas (February 17, 2015) — The United Steelworkers (USW) union has issued a report that raises concerns about the safety of workers and the community around the Sherwin Alumina plant in Gregory, where 450 USW members have been locked out of their jobs since October 11.

“Refining alumina is a hazardous process, one that employs corrosive chemicals, high temperatures and intense pressure,” said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza. “When you force well-trained, experienced and highly skilled workers off the job, the dangers in a plant like this only increase. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

In its report, titled “Sherwin Alumina: Too Great a Risk,” the USW cites an explosion during a 1999 lockout at an alumina plant in Gramercy, La., that injured 29 workers as an example of what can happen when experienced workers are forced into the street. The report also reveals a nearly 10-fold increase in “serious and substantial” citations and orders from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) between 2006 and 2014.

“The risks are not only to the workers who are in the plant, but to the entire community,” Garza said. “In the case of an explosion, the effects could potentially spread far beyond the plant gates. It takes constant vigilance and attention to detail to ensure that the process goes smoothly.”

Sherwin locked its doors on USW Local 235A members in Gregory in October after the workers refused to accept the company’s contract proposal that included substantial pay and benefit cuts. To take their place, the company brought in temporary workers, many of whom never worked in an alumina refinery before.

USW District 13 represents more than 50,000 members in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments.

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