AFL-CIO: USW: Salt Mine Owner Violated Worker Safety, Should Not Get Award

True Value should take back the 2011 Supplier of the Year Award it gave North American Salt, says United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard, because North American operates a salt mine in Louisiana that has received safety and health citations for serious violations and has been shut down temporarily by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Some 100 workers at the company’s Cote Blanche mine in Louisiana are USW members.

“North American Salt has operated its Cote Blanche mine in a way that shows a pattern of disregard for the health and safety of employees,” Gerard writes in a letter to True Value President and CEO Lyle Heidemann.

From January 2009 through Aug. 8, 2012, MSHA has cited North American Salt with more than 400 health and safety violations at the Cote Blanche mine, with 126 of these violations determined to be “significant and substantial.”

The company, owned by Compass Minerals, produces mined rock salt for highway and consumer de-icing. True Value, a retailer-owned hardware cooperative, awarded North American Salt Supplier of the Year, Lawn and Garden Division, in August.

USW says Local 14425 has been trying to negotiate a fair contract at Cote Blanche since 2010 but has been thwarted by the company’s unfair labor practices. An administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined the company committed numerous unfair labor practices by declaring impasse, refusing to bargain in good faith and unilaterally changing working terms and conditions beginning on March 31, 2010.  A second administrative law judge for the NLRB decided the company behaved illegally in dealing with USW-represented employees at the salt mine.

Gerard also is calling on North American Salt to “change course by complying” with Compass’ code of conduct, which includes a
“commitment to do what is right, obey all laws, behave with integrity and honesty, treat people fairly…and always behave in a way that is above reproach.”

Read Gerard’s full letter.

Read the full blog post from AFL-CIO here.