The United Steelworkers of America reiterated their support Jan. 15 for the energy investments of Golden Northwest Aluminum as fundamental to the strategy of saving the aluminum smelters in the The Dalles, and Goldendale, and preserving over 1000 family-wage jobs.
Golden Northwest has been the recent target of bondholder and profit-sharing class action lawsuits trying to liquidate the company and disperse the proceeds of power sales conducted by the company during the energy crisis of 2000.
"I am deeply concerned that the short-sighted greed of a few individuals is putting a thousand families at risk in the long-term," said David Foster, director, District #11, United Steelworkers of America. "Our union and Golden Northwest Aluminum entered into a landmark agreement in early 2000 which committed GNA to making $100 million in energy investments. The purpose of these investments was to provide a stable energy source for the smelters whose very existence was threatened. That agreement contains specific provisions which protect the USWA members from loss of income or employment if the power from the energy projects is used for any purpose other than to smelt aluminum. Thus, in our opinion, the allegation that the energy investments in some fashion deprive our members of profit-sharing is completely without merit."
Foster went on to say, "We are pleased that the suit by GNA's bondholders has already been resolved and we hope that the current class action lawsuit will be disposed of quickly. The survival of the smelters is too important to be undermined through senseless litigation."
The United Steelworkers of America represents 700,000 members in the United States and Canada, including hourly employees at eight of the 10 aluminum smelters in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently, high electrical power prices and low world aluminum prices have combined to result in the layoff of most of the region's 6500 smelter employees. Many of these employees have continued to draw wages and benefits as the result of programs negotiated by the USWA and paid for from the resale of the smelters' 2001 power contracts.