Glencore’s History of Broken Promises

As USW Local 235A members are all too aware, Glencore – Sherwin Alumina’s giant corporate parent – has a history of broken promises and abuse of workers and communities across the globe.

In addition to the eight-month lockout at Sherwin, Glencore has recently been accused of launching anti-union campaigns against mine workers in South Africa, Colombia, Peru, Australia and elsewhere.

glencore-signThe USW and its global allies continue to work to bring these situations to light and to ensure that Glencore is held responsible for its behavior.

The latest example of Glencore’s corporate misdeeds involves the closure of an aluminum facility in Montana: Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. (CFAC), which once employed 1,500 workers and closed in 2009 due to high power costs.

In March, Glencore announced it would permanently shutter the plant. The decision came after laid-off workers and elected officials tried for years to work with Glencore and local power companies on a plan to reopen the facility, a deal that workers say Glencore had no intention of making despite stringing the community along with empty promises.

“To Glencore, we’re just a number. They don’t know who we are, and they don’t care,” said Brian Doyle, a former plant employee and president of USW Local 320.

Now, a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would add CFAC to the list of contaminated sites on the Superfund National Priority List for cleanup.

The USW sent detailed comments to EPA  in support of the Superfund designation, arguing that pollution from the site is potentially serious enough to pose long-term risks the community’s groundwater and to wildlife, and stressing that the investigation and cleanup could offer local job opportunities.

In another example of Glencore valuing profits over people, company officials have said that they oppose the EPA listing, arguing that it would devalue the property and delay their plans to redevelop the site.

Meanwhile, Glencore has so far refused to reach a fair severance deal for workers who lost their jobs, some of whom had worked at the plant for more than 30 years.

The community and workers of Columbia Falls were “left holding the short end of the stick,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat. “It was a good business … it could still be open today if that corporation had any will at all.”

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