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Steelworker Rally Challenges Tiffany to Live Up to Its Word

Submitted by: United Steelworkers (USW)

Categories: Business Ethics

Posted: May 12, 2003 – 12:00 AM EST

 

May 12 /CSRwire/ - Chicago, IL--The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) on Friday held a rally at Tiffany in Chicago on behalf of the Kennecott Coordinated Bargaining Committee to challenge Tiffany to live up to its pledge to do business with suppliers that share its concern for sustainable development and fair treatment for workers.

The rally, at which Steelworkers were joined by Jobs With Justice activists, International Union of Operating Engineers members and community representatives, culminated in USWA representatives delivering a letter to a Chicago Tiffany representative informing Tiffany of labor and environmental abuses committed by Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC) and its corporate parent Rio Tinto plc (RTP). The letter requests that Tiffany encourage KUC and Rio Tinto to behave as responsible corporate citizens and not devastate the environment, workers or communities near its operations.

In 2002, Tiffany struck a deal with KUC under the terms of which Tiffany will annually buy over a million ounces of gold and silver from KUC.

"By purchasing such significant amounts of precious metals from Kennecott Utah Copper, Tiffany is significantly bolstering the bottom line of a company that seems hell-bent on a race to the bottom," said USWA District 12 Director Terry Bonds, "Tiffany will only be behaving responsibly when it makes a serious attempt to reverse that race."

The letter delivered to Tiffany underscores KUC and Rio Tinto's poor social, environmental and labor practices, including:

-- Australia's Full Bench Commission, a judicial body, found that
Rio Tinto unfairly dismissed 16 mineworkers at its facilities
in Blair Athol, Australia. Rio Tinto has refused to rehire
them and has recently moved to have them and their families
evicted from their homes.

-- More than 400 indigenous Indonesian families have been
forcibly evicted from their lands to make way for mining
operations in which Rio Tinto has a significant stake.

-- KUC has in recent years been the worst toxic polluter in the
US. According to the Environmental Protection Agency Toxic
Release Inventory, KUC's facilities in Salt Lake County, Utah
released over 2.7 billion pounds of toxic materials to the
environment between 1999 and 2001. This includes over 231,000
pounds of cyanide and over 117 million pounds of arsenic.

-- Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights confirms state
security forces carried out numerous violations of human
rights, including indiscriminate killings, torture and
disappearances in operations connected to providing security
for mining operations partly controlled by Rio Tinto.

-- PT KEM, a mining subsidiary of Rio Tinto in Indonesia, signed
an agreement with community organizations in which it pledged
to publicly apologize for human rights abuses committed
against its workers, including sexual harassment and rape of
women workers.

-- KUC is seeking to strip health care coverage from its retirees
in Utah, despite the fact that KUC's corporate parent Rio
Tinto has just presented its outgoing Chairman Sir Robert
Wilson with a $21 million retirement package which will ensure
that he never lacks for medical care.

According to USWA International President Leo Gerard, "In this age of
networked corporations that span the globe, saying 'Don't look at me, my supplier did it' is an act of complicity. We sincerely hope that Tiffany upholds its ethical and moral responsibility to ensure that its suppliers, including Rio Tinto and its subsidiary Kennecott Utah Copper, behave in a humane, worker friendly and environmentally responsible manner."

The Kennecott Coordinated Bargaining Committee is comprised of representatives of five unions that represent about 1,300 of 1,900 total workers at KUC's mining, smelting and refining facilities in Salt Lake County, Utah. The Committee has been involved in a labor dispute with KUC since October 1, 2002, which has not resulted in a work stoppage.

KUC, based in Magna, Utah, had $755 million in revenues and $78 million in net profits in 2002.

For more information, please contact:

Phone: 219/746-6588

 

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