Oct 7, 2002
Kennecott Copper negotiators in Utah walked out on negotiations with the USWA (the United Steelworkers of America) on September 30. Then, as a kind of afterthought, they stuck a new offer – worse than the earlier ones – under the door of the union negotiators, declaring it to be the company's "final offer."When negotiations break down, a company can legally impose its final offer. Kennecott used exactly this pretext to impose big concessions on the USWA workers.
Wayne Holland, a union negotiator, said, "We think the NLRB probably will agree with us that negotiations were not at an impasse. And we believe they will rule Kennecott's attempt to impose the terms of its final contract offer is illegal."A labor law that contains such a provision hardly offers the workers protection. To ask workers to put their faith in it is little more than asking them to commit suicide.
What counts in this kind of situation is not the courts and the NLRB, which will take years to decide in the workers' favor – in the best of cases. What counts is the workers' readiness to fight right now.