Negotiators for Kaiser Aluminum Corp. and the United Steelworkers of America have held some serious talks over the past several days.
But the most lively - and troublesome - talk has been on the radio.
Both union and Kaiser officials said Tuesday that on several occasions during the past week they have had to call local talk radio stations to correct erroneous reports and misguided gossip.
The worst incident occurred Monday when a caller impersonated a union official and announced that the proposed settlement was off and no vote would be taken. On the same day, another person called, identifying himself as a Kaiser representative.
“If something aired is outlandish, we try to address it,” said Kaiser spokeswoman Susan Ashe, who has gone on at least two talk radio shows to correct misleading statements made by callers. “The stations have been very responsible” to air the corrections.
Joe Thorp, president of the Steelworkers Local 338, was less forgiving. He said talk radio shows have created havoc among his membership by broadcasting false rumors and repeating them to stir up callers. Some talk show hosts have agitated listeners by declaring that “unions are outdated.”
“We’ve had to put out a lot of fires,” Thorp said. “I had people calling me up like you wouldn’t believe” after talk radio aired certain comments.
While callers vent their opinions on talk radio, salaried Kaiser workers at the Mead smelter have been filling the scanner airwaves with chat.
In the early stages of the strike, chatter on the company scanners was tense with calls for assistance by workers who were unfamiliar with their new jobs.
But by Monday, with a new contract vote scheduled, tensions had eased and workers were making jokes.
Scanner traffic indicates that maintenance crews are using jackhammers at Mead to remove hardened carbon from the floor.
A media tour Saturday showed that salaried workers are letting carbon pile up, which means the Steelworkers may have a mess to clean up when they get back to work.
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