Jackson aluminum plant seeks court intervention in labor dispute

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 23, 2012

Union members picket outside Constellium's facility in Ravenswood. (Courtesy photo)

RIPLEY – Following alleged acts of violence and intimidation by striking workers, management at a Jackson County aluminum plant want restrictions placed on picketing until the dispute is settled.

United Steelworkers of America Local 5568 is named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed Aug. 10 by Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood. In its complaint filed in Jackson Circuit Court, Constellium alleges both leaders of Local 5568, including President Jason Miller, Bargaining Unit President Nathan Nelson, Vice-President Ed Barnette, Financial Secretary David Martin, Treasurer Mark Whitt, executive board members Alan Starcher, Bill Brinker and Ray Burgess, trustees Robin Painter, Kevin Gaul and Randy Beegle, and members Mike Fowler, Rob Sullivan, Robert Brinker, Howard Browning, Terry McCarthy and Greg Durst, have either engaged in or helped facilitate actions against it beyond the acceptable bounds of drawing attention to the labor dispute in order to reach an agreement.

According to the suit, as soon as the strike began on Aug. 5, so too did the violence, and intimidation. Not only have they placed themselves en mass at Constellium's entrances, including those from W.Va. 2, but picketers have used jack rocks to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the plant.

The jack rocks have not only destroyed tires on the vehicles belonging to Constellium vendors making deliveries to the plant, but also to cruisers for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and West Virginia State Police who've been assigned to the plant to maintain order. Also, Constellium alleges an unidentified union member went to the home of an unidentified manager who has been staying at the plant and flattened his wife's car with a jack rock.

Along with jack rocks, some union members have resorted to throwing bricks at vehicles at attempt to enter the plant. On Aug. 8, a brick was thrown trough the windshield of a truck belonging to McCoy Trucking which injured the driver.

According to the suit, Fowler and Sullivan were arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

In addition to those who visit the plant, Constellium alleges union members have called vendors and told them to not bother in making the trip to Ravenswood. One such incident occurred on Aug. 7 when Foster Supply in Scott Depot received a call from a telephone number registered to Durst and the caller said, "'If you are going to send trucks across the picket line, you better have plenty of tires and windshields. We will make sure every truck that goes into the plant comes out on a wrecker.'"

When the Foster Supply employee told the caller, "'We are just doing our job,'" he replied, "'Come down the plant and me and my buddies will kick your ass.'"

In its suit, Constellium avers that since the strike began, it has not hired any replacement workers. Instead, it has used "supervisory and unrepresented personnel to handle the work tasks necessary to meet is manufacturing obligations" which "have been significantly curtailed" as result of the violence.

As a result, Constellium is seeking a court order restricting anyone affiliated with Local 5668 from engaging in mass picketing not only on or near the plant's property, but also the homes of any Constellium employee, and vendor. Specifically, they are asking that, until the strike is settled, that the number of people picketing anywhere near the plant or the home of an employee be limited to two.

In addition to granting its order, Constellium seeks recovery of court costs, and attorneys fees. They are represented by Christopher L. Slaughter, and Jessica L. Wiley with Steptoe and Johnson.

The case is assigned to Judge David W. Nibert.

Since filing its complaint, Constellium made a motion for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction on Aug. 13 followed by a motion for expedited consideration two days later. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Jackson Circuit Court case number 12-C-109

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