WASHINGTON—The United Steelworkers union has formally asked the U.S. Department of Labor to convene the Labor Council under the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) to consider the dispute between Kumho Tire USA and the USW at Kumho's new plant in Macon, Ga.
The USW has accused Kumho of unfair labor practices in connection with the union organizing election at Macon Oct. 12-13. The union lost the election 164-136, and on Oct. 17 it filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, asking the NLRB to set aside the election results.
"Illegal tactics by the company have effectively limited the freedom of association…and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining…for the U.S. workers at the Kumho plant," read the Nov. 6 letter from USW International President Leo W. Gerard to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
Kumho fired union supporter Mario Smith on Oct. 17, and has threatened other workers at Macon with dismissal, according to Gerard.
"The severity of actions by management at Kumho and disregard for U.S. labor law raises serious questions over the Korean government's commitment to the labor chapter of the KORUS FTA," he said.
The Korean Development Bank, an entity of the Korean government, holds a significant ownership stake in Kumho and considerable control over the tire maker's affairs, according to Gerard.
The USW also is concerned about the imprisonment of Han Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation for Trade Unions, for organizing peaceful demonstrations, Gerard said.
"Last month Han Sang-gyun was awarded the AFL-CIO's George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award," he said.