The Olympic medals handed out at this summer's Olympic Games in London may be shiny and pretty on the outside but the inside story of the union-busting conglomerate that will manufacture the medals is ugly.
An international campaign launched this week by the United Steelworkers (USW) to kick global mining giant Rio Tinto “Off the Podium” is gaining steam. Unions around the globe say Rio Tinto's track record of alleged human and labor rights violations and environmental devastation tarnishes the spirit of the Olympic Games.
Three of Australia’s largest unions are urging Olympic planners to drop Rio Tinto as the Olympics' medal supplier. Says Tony Maher, spokesman for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU):
If there was a gold medal for abuse of human rights, work rights and the environment, it would go to Rio Tinto.
On Jan. 1, Rio Tinto Alcan locked out 750 USW members in Quebec after workers rejected a contract that would have replaced retiring workers with nonunionized contract jobs at half the wages of current workers, and with no benefits. The Quebec operation is one of the most profitable aluminum smelters in the world.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) says Rio Tinto’s lockout in Canada is a replay of the company’s attempt to bust the ILWU at a California boron mine in 2010. An article in the ILWU Dispatcher says:
Rio Tinto’s goal in Alma is similar to what they wanted in Boron—replacing members with outsourcing and subcontracting to weaken and eventually destroy the union.
The 550 ILWU Local 30 members built on union solidarity to win tremendous community support to overcome the lockout. Last month, a delegation of Alcan workers visited ILWU Local 30.
“We’re here because you know what it takes to beat a Rio Tinto lockout,” said President Marc Maltais, of Local USW 9490.
Click here to send a letter to the International Olympic Committee urging it to drop Rio Tinto as the medal supplier.