Steelworkers: Korean tire firm, run by govt. bank, violated workers’ rights at Ga. plant

MACON, Ga.—A Korean tire company, partially owned and virtually controlled by a government bank, flagrantly broke labor law and violated workers’ rights at the firm’s Macon, Ga., plant in the run-up to and after the recognition vote the Steelworkers narrowly lost there, USW says.

So besides filing charges against Kumho Tire with the National Labor Relations Board, the union asked Trump administration Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to invoke the Korea-U.S. “free trade” pact and demand formal consultations with Korea’s government on the case.

The union lost the mid-October vote in Macon 136-164 with four challenged ballots. Twelve eligible workers did not vote. USW filed 14 objections with the board’s Atlanta regional office, saying Kumho’s labor law-breaking skewed the election. It wants a ban on employer interference and a clean election rerun. Union President Leo Gerard told Acosta the law-breaking violated the free trade pact’s labor articles.

The lawbreaking “effectively limited the freedom of association” and barred “effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining” by Kumho’s U.S. workers, Gerard told Acosta, quoting directly from language in the Korea-U.S. “free trade” pact.

And three days after USW lost the vote, Kumho Tire in Macon fired a leading union supporter, Mario Smith, “and has threatened other union supporters with termination,” Gerard said. The firing and threats break labor law bans on company retaliation against union backers.

Gerard asked Acosta to invoke the trade pact because the Korean Development Bank, a state-owned bank, virtually controls Kumho. The bank heads a committee of creditors now running the financially ailing tire firm, and it engineered replacement of the financially ailing tire firm’s CEO last month, Korean media reported.

“The government, which through the KDB has a significant ownership stake and control of the affairs of Kumho Tire, failed to effectively oversee the management of assets” at the Macon plant “and compliance with U.S. labor law,” Gerard wrote Acosta.

There is one irony to Gerard’s request to Acosta. The Secretary’s boss, GOP President Donald Trump, made clear during his recent Asian trip that he wants to renegotiate the U.S.-Korea free trade pact to “rebalance” the U.S. trade deficit with Korea.

Gerard has yet to receive an answer from Acosta.

Source: PAI