Wells Fargo loses more accounts

SALEM, OR -- More local unions and labor councils are withdrawing money from Wells Fargo Bank in a show of support for 1,100 striking Steelworkers at CF&I in Pueblo, Colo. The company is owned by Portland-based Oregon Steel Mills.

Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board member Jim Phillips reported that his Steelworkers Local 9170 in The Dalles withdrew nearly $20 million in 401(k) money from the bank.

The Oregon AFL-CIO closed a $74,000 account at a Salem branch, Pile Drivers Local 2416 withdrew $40,000 from a Portland branch and, as reported earlier, the Western Council of Industrial Workers moved $5 million out of Wells Fargo.

According to Carl Tyner of Steelworkers Local 6163 in Albany, more than $47 million had been withdrawn from Wells Fargo nationwide as of Dec. 19.

He told the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board that the international union plans to dispatch full-time representatives throughout 13 Western states with the sole assignment of persuading local unions, labor councils and community activists to withdraw money from the California-based system.

The bank has been targeted by the union in a corporate campaign because it is extending a huge line of credit to Oregon Steel as it attempts to bust the union in Colorado.

"Wells Fargo just loaned Oregon Steel another $15 million to fight us," Tyner said.

The Steelworkers have had success with corporate campaigns during past labor disputes, embarking on similar tactics during strikes in the steel and tire industries. "Our International President George Becker has declared that 'Losing is not an option' in this fight," Tyner said.

Last week the Steelworkers caroled at the Portland-area home of Willamette Industries boss William Swindells, who sits on Oregon Steel's board of directors. "We changed the words a little bit," Tyner said. Willamette's headquarters are in the Wells Fargo Center.

CF&I was purchased by Oregon Steel for $22 million after the company declared bankruptcy in the early 1990s. All the Steelworkers in the plant lost their pension money under an employee stock ownership plan.

To keep the mill afloat, employees agreed to major concessions with Oregon Steel -- with the understanding that once the mill was profitable the contract would improve.

"That day has come," Tyner said. The company is profitable, now employees want to quit working mandatory 70-plus hours a week and they want the employer to pay industry standards on pension contributions.

The strike began Oct. 3, and before employees even voted on the company's "last, best and final offer," CF&I had placed "help wanted" advertisements in major newspapers in the South. It has hired 500 permanent replacements and 86 union members have returned to work, Tyner said.


Jan. 2, 1997 issue

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