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No Borders: Communities Living & Working with ASARCO A project by Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson, with the support of the Evergreen Labor Center.

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Presentation on theme: "No Borders: Communities Living & Working with ASARCO A project by Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson, with the support of the Evergreen Labor Center."— Presentation transcript:

1 No Borders: Communities Living & Working with ASARCO A project by Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson, with the support of the Evergreen Labor Center

2 Guiding Questions How can labor be connected to other movements for social and community justice, including environmental/public health movements? What challenges and opportunities does globalization present? How can communities learn from each others’ experience and find resources to address the problems of industrial contamination and corporate flight?

3 Frameworks Labor/union history and experience Community life and culture Asarco and Globalization Public Health and Environment Asarco’s bankruptcy Future community development Labor and community strategies

4 ÅSARCO and Globalization 1876Guggenheim family invests in Mexican rail, mines 1899 Asarco mining and smelting company formed 1905 Northwest smelters purchased by Asarco Asarco supports Canadian smelter against WA. farmers 1960 Asarco creates Southern Peru Copper Corp Asarco creates Asarco Mexicana--51% Mexican owned Tacoma Superfund--Ruston smelter closes 1999 Grupo Mexico purchases Asarco 2003Southern Peru Copper sold to Grupo Mexico 2005Asarco declares bankruptcy ,000 Mexican miners strike against GM

5 Public Health--Ruston/Tacoma The long history of concern about public health impacts of the smelter dates from Key groups that initiated research were the Lung Association, WSU Extension, physician groups. Major concerns: arsenic (cancer, cardiovascular problems); lead (developmental disorders, cancer) Tacoma Process--arsenic standards; Superfund designation. 1990’s Research finds exposure varies with distance from smelter, several times above background. Limited, inconclusive studies. Clean-up standards negotiated. Different levels in different locations. Federal standards for Ruston: 230ppm arsenic, 500ppm lead State standards for the area: 20ppm arsenic, 250 ppm lead 1995 Ruston area class action against Asarco for fiscal and medical remedies.Won testing for concerned citizens in the zone. 2004Extended footprint 1,000 square miles (Dirt Alert). 2005Washington soil contamination legislation to protect kids. Steelworkers develop labor, environment and health strategy.

6 1899 Asarco founded 1914 Ruston plant unionized by WFM 1916 WFM becomes Mine-Mill--rechartered in Pinto mortality study 1967Mine-Mill merges with Steelworkers 1972Elevated blood-lead levels in Ruston, El Paso 1983Ruston declared part of Tacoma Superfund 1986 Ruston smelter closes 1995?Copper Basin Coalition class action suit 1998EPA--hazardous waste incineration in El Paso 2004Get the Lead Out Coalition forms in El Paso 2005Asarco declares bankruptcy 2007Steelworkers/Asarco labor contract 2007 EPA asks for NPL listing for Hayden, Arizona Labor/Health Chronology

7 Asarco’s Legal and Fiscal Path 1999 Grupo Mexico purchases Asarco after bidding war; becomes 3rd largest copper producer in the world Justice Dept. stops sale of Southern Peru Copper to Grupo Mexico Asarco creates $100 million trust for community cleanup; sale approved Asarco goes after retirees pensions; lures workers into court Montana citizens challenge Asarco’s violation of state constitution Arizona--Asarco argues it has “right to pollute” in smeltertowns AZ and TX Steelworkers strike over wages. Copper prices rising but Asarco says “labor costs are too high.”

8 Asarco’s Bankruptcy In August 2005, during TX, AZ strike, Asarco filed in Bankruptcy Court. Over 2000 workers and 95 communities in 21 states impacted. 20 major creditors, including WA. State. Unsecured Creditors Committee includes USWA. Grupo Mexico is not implicated in the bankruptcy suit. Some significant features of the Asarco Bankruptcy: (1) One of top 10 bankruptcies of 2005 (2) May bankrupt Superfund; taxpayers face $1 billion in clean-ups. (3) Tests rights of workers and communities to cross borders for just remedies. (4) Charges that bankruptcy is fraudulent; Asarco capital seeking safe haven. (5) Bankruptcy may threaten pensioners; federal protections tested. (6) May set off round of bankruptcies and cross-border reorganizations. (7) Proceedings may jeopardize working communities and capacity to rebuild.


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