LAFAYETTE,INDIANA... Indiana politicians cheered the anti-union Subaru-Isuzu Automotive plant in Lafayette when it was built in 1989. Today the plant is eliciting harsh criticism from labor leaders. The company located its huge factory in Tippecanoe County due to lucrative cash handouts financed by county and state taxes. The handouts were the brainchild of Republican former Governor Robert Orr, and amount to roughly $50,000 per job created.
Laurie Graham, a former doctoral student at Purdue and currently a professor of labor studies at Indiana University in Kokomo, worked at the Subaru plant for six years. She entered the factory with the intent of exposing the horrors of a non-union shop. Her new book, "On the Line with Subaru-Isuzu: The Japanese Model and the American Worker" blasts the anti-union management philosophy of KAIZEN. In a kaizen-oriented shop, workers are encouraged to complain and blow off steam, but the complaints are only swept under the rug by management.
Such disregarded complaints have resulted in several lawsuits. A class action suit filed by Bruce Socker alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit also accuses the company of negligence in knee and shoulder injuries, and wrist injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. These injuries are caused by mandatory 12-hour shifts. Prof.Graham said,"I have never worked so hard for so long in my life. If workers don't organize there, the injuries will continue." Prof.Graham correctly criticized her former bosses because of their vicious anti-labor policies, not because of their nationality.
African-American inspection worker Reginald Mallett filed a separate lawsuit. He says he was the victim of racist slurs, jokes, prejudice, and even physical threats. In 1992, Mallett was officially reprimanded for refusing to accept a verbal apology instead of filing a written complaint when a co-worker threatened to burn a cross on his lawn.
Janitors working for a contractor at the plant have observed management personnel coercing workers into wearing anti-UAW stickers on their hardhats.
In another Indiana labor struggle, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management handed Lafayette residents a temporary defeat by approving A.E.Staley's request to double air emissions of propylene oxide. The August 25 decision defies militant and persistent public outcry against the company. Lafayette residents were given only 18 days to appeal the decision. In one such appeal, the rehire of all locked-out AIW-UPIU workers in Decatur, Illinois was listed as one of the conditions that Staley would have to meet before neighbors will consent to the pollution permit.