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U.S. UNIONS BLOCK CROWN PETROLEUM TAKEOVER

 
ICEM UPDATE

No. 68/2000

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 environmental pollution.

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 not pass.

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 value.

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 workers' section.

"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 campaign.

A special website on the Crown campaign is online at www.crownboycott.org

_________________

Individual ICEM UPDATE items can be supplied in other languages on request.

Our print magazines ICEM INFO and ICEM GLOBAL are available in Arabic, English,
French, German, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

Visit us on the Web at http://www.icem.org

ICEM
avenue Emile de Beco 109, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.
tel.+32.2.6262020   fax +32.2.6484316
Internet: icem@geo2.poptel.org.uk

Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer

Publisher: Fred Higgs, General Secretary.

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