|DES MOINES, Iowa / USWA / - Iowa District Court Judge Paul R. Huscher found Titan Tire Corp. of Des Moines guilty of contempt of court today for refusing to allow entrance to inspectors from the Iowa Safety and Health Bureau ...|
Iowa District Court Judge Paul R. Huscher found Titan Tire Corp. of Des Moines guilty of contempt of court today for refusing to allow entrance to inspectors from the Iowa Safety and Health Bureau of the Iowa Department of Labor (IOSHA). Iowa District Court Judge Jerrold Jordan had also cited Titan for contempt for refusing IOSHA inspectors entrance in April 1999. Both judges slapped the company with $500 fines -- the maximum allowed under Iowa law.
In both cases, Titan lawyers argued that the company did not have to allow the IOSHA inspectors entrance, despite the fact that they had obtained legal warrants. Titan claimed, both times, that because USWA safety representatives accompanied the IOSHA inspectors, the warrants were invalid. Both judges overruled Titan's claims and cited the company for contempt.
In the April 1999 case, Titan appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court on the issue of the validity of union safety representatives joining the inspectors. That appeal is pending. In the meantime, Judge Huscher's decision is the controlling precedent on the issue of union presence. The judge, in his decision, clearly stated that USWA Local 164 is the certified bargaining agent for the Des Moines facility and that Iowa law allows its health and safety representatives to be part of inspections.
"Titan Tire had no right to resist a warrant with clear and nonambiguous language. There was, beyond a reasonable doubt, a willful refusal putting Titan in contempt," the judge said.
"Even though the law is clear, Titan has attempted to make our presence at the health and safety inspections an issue because we are involved in an Unfair Labor Practice Strike," said USWA Local 164 President John Peno. "Titan refuses to obey Iowa law, which is absolutely clear on this matter. We have the right under the law to be part of inspections and we will exercise that right.
"Titan's safety record is deplorable," Peno continued. "Since the company took over the Des Moines operation in 1994, there have been two deaths and numerous serious injuries - including broken bones, mutilated limbs and amputations.
"This is more than a legal issue; it's also a moral issue," Peno said. "It's an issue of making Titan Tire accountable for its consistently irresponsible and dangerous conduct.
"IOSHA has done a great job in pursuing Titan and attempting to make this company obey Iowa's health and safety laws. Unfortunately, the laws allow corporate criminals like Titan to stall safety inspections, to avoid citations, and to pay minimal fines. All the while they continue business as usual as workers are harmed - and even killed." SN