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  Friday, June 20, 2003

 Local News


USWA stands by Taft versus AK


News Journal


MANSFIELD -- The United Steelworkers of America called on AK Steel Corp. on Thursday to end its media campaign attacking Gov. Bob Taft.

The company accused the governor of "waging war on the employees of AK Steel and their families in Ohio while doling out aid to our competitors," in full-page ads in several newspapers Sunday.

Tuesday, Taft sent a letter to AK chairman Richard Wardrop, Jr. calling the ad "reprehensible ... baseless ... aggressive misinformation."

Bill Coffindaffer, vice president of USWA Local 169, said the union was familiar with the steel company's media campaign tactics.

"Our members and families were similarly attacked by AK Steel's public relations hounds during the lockout AK orchestrated," Coffindaffer said.

According to Coffindaffer, the union agreed with the governor that AK Steel may be trying to blame the state for a possible future shutdown of its Middletown, Ohio, facility.

"We understand Gov. Taft's concern that AK would try to shift attention from its corporate misconduct by implying the governor somehow is attacking Ohio workers," he said. "But AK Steel and Dick Wardrop have been waging war against 620 of our families in Mansfield since September 1999."

According to Taft's letter, the state has made $80 million in low-cost financing available to help AK Steel come into compliance with environmental regulations at the Middletown facility. The governor also has met with Wardrop to try to resolve the conflict between the company and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. However, the dispute is set to go to trial later this year.

That didn't surprise the USWA, either.

"AK (Steel) is not interested in compromise when it comes to dispute resolution," Coffindaffer said. "It's modus operandi has been to bully the other side into accepting whatever terms the company dictates, and we applaud the Taft administration's efforts to enforce the law fairly."

dbenson@nncogannett.com

(419) 521-7272

Originally published Friday, June 20, 2003

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