by United Steelworkers of America
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
April 1, 1992
3 pages
Type: Press Release
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United States
Language: English
The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) announced that joint efforts by the USWA, International Association of Machinists (IAM), and The Africa Fund have persuaded Crown Cork and Seal Co. to reinstate 196 black South African workers who had been fired September 22 for participating in a two-day strike protesting apartheid violence in which 300 people were killed or injured. George Poulin, general vice president of the IAM, called the agreement a vindication of the principles of trade unionism. The press release said that the reinstatement agreement was signed in Alrode, South Africa, by the company and Bethuel Maserumule, regional secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA); it calls for 100 workers to be returned to their jobs immediately, with the remaining 96 given preferential recall rights. The fired workers, all of them NUMSA members, constituted the company's entire work force; they had been replaced by non-union scabs. Following an attempt to negotiate the dispute with company officials in December, six of the fired workers and three NUMSA officers were arrested on company complaints of "intimidation." The settlement called for dropping of the charges. Crown Cork and Seal is headquartered in Philadelphia; the USWA and the IAM, who represent Crown Cork and Seal hourly workers in the U.S., interceded on behalf of the South African workers at the request of Maserumule and The Africa Fund. Maserumule visited the U.S. in February, sponsored by The Africa Fund, seeking help to overturn the firings from the USWA, IAM, and other trade unions, and political and religious leaders. Initially, the company refused to even discuss the dismissals, and then said it would consider reinstating 10 workers. Facing the prospect of unified union opposition and a national day of protest scheduled for March 30, it changed its position at a meeting in Philadelphia on March 19 arranged by Leon Lynch, USWA vice president for human affairs, and also attended by Poulin, Maserumule, Mike Fleshman of The Africa Fund, and William Avery, chairman and CEO of Crown Cork and Seal. Lynch had earlier written to Avery, asking for his personal involvement in the matter and warning that conditions had deteriorated dramatically at the company's Alrode subsidiary. Lynch's information came from a meeting with NUMSA officials and some of the fired workers in Johannesburg on January 15. The press release quotes Lynch and Jennifer Davis.
Collection: Kathleen M. Devine papers