U.S. UNIONS BLOCK CROWN PETROLEUM TAKEOVER
25 August 2000
The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy,
Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):
American unions yesterday succeeded in stopping the takeover of Crown
Central Petroleum by company insiders.
The campaign against the bid was run by the US Paper, Allied-Industrial,
Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) in conjunction with
the national labour federation, the AFL-CIO.
Crown has a long history of union-busting. On 5 February 1996, management
ordered union members to leave Crown's refinery in Pasadena, Texas, and
locked the gates behind them. By the next day, the company replaced all
252 union workers with inexperienced "temporary" workers. The
lockout has continued ever since.
Various groups have also accused the company of racism, sexism and
Yesterday, at its annual shareholders' meeting, Crown announced that the
vote in favour of the takeover fell far short of the two-thirds of voting
shares needed under Maryland law in order for the family of Crown CEO
Henry Rosenberg to acquire all remaining shares in the company at 9.50 US
dollars per share.
Stopping the takeover was unprecedented, since the Rosenberg family
already owned over half the stock. One unnamed source with close
ties to Crown insiders told PACE that Crown board members were shocked
that the takeover by Rosemore, the Rosenberg family holding company, did
Joe Drexler of PACE, who has been leading a protracted campaign against
Crown since the company locked out union members in 1996, said, "This
is a great victory for shareholder democracy. The little guys took on the
big guys and won."
While the final count is not in, it appears that votes against the
takeover outnumbered votes in favour by a ten-to-one margin among shares
not controlled by the Rosenberg family.
"We have been saying all along that Crown's problems and those
incurred by the Rosenberg family cannot be solved until there is labour
peace," added Drexler.
At Crown's shareholder meeting, board members were criticised for bungling
the sale of the company, for favouring the Rosenberg family over other
bidders, and for not cleaning up the company's labour, environmental and
civil rights problems before putting the company up for sale.
Ed Rothstein, the union's coordinator of the Crown boycott for Maryland
and Washington D.C, said, "The Crown board was trying to hock the
company in filthy condition, and it is little wonder there were so few
bidders and the takeover price was so low."
"We unmistakably delivered the message that unless the lockout and
the labour dispute are resolved, Crown's problems will worsen, and
this applies to any company that acquires Crown," said Alvin Freeman
of PACE Local 4-227. He is one of the locked-out workers.
The locked-out workers themselves, many of whom invested their retirement
savings in Crown stock, were also relieved to have stopped the Rosenberg
family from acquiring their stock at one-half of one-third of its original
PACE thanked the AFL-CIO Office of Investment, whose work in communicating
with and educating various Crown investors was critical.
At the global level, PACE is affiliated to the 20-million-strong
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers'
Unions (ICEM). The campaign to end Crown's union-busting has received
strong support from the ICEM and its affiliated unions.
In Norway, the ICEM-affiliated oilworkers' union NOPEF is pressing the
Norwegian-based multinational Statoil to suspend all commercial dealings
with Crown until the US company reverses its anti-union policies.
"PACE's victory in the shareholder battle is important for American
workers, but also for oilworkers everywhere," commented Lars Myhre in
Norway today. Myhre is NOPEF's President, and he chairs the ICEM energy
"Unless and until Crown Central Petroleum halts its union-busting and
its other nefarious activities, no respectable oil company should have
anything to do with Crown," Myhre insisted.
In the US, where Crown gasoline and other products are on direct sale to
the consumer, PACE and other organisations have been running a boycott
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