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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Promise Not Kept: Profits Over People

From The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog;

In early 2012, reports circulated detailing some of the profit-centered entitlement raids that occurred at Bain Capital under Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance became intrigued when asbestos industry defendants appeared on a list of these types of corporate liquidations and commissioned a three-month investigation of the company’s handling of GS Industries through journalist, Gary Cohn. What we uncovered is the true human tragedy of collateral damage stemming from this profit model. We found a community affected by decades of toxic exposure, gasping for breath while picking up the pieces among an uncertain future.

A Promise Not Kept

John Cottrell had health problems, but in his heart he believed he was covered. After all, GS Industries, the Kansas City steel company where he had worked for 30 years had guaranteed his health insurance and pensions in the event of a shutdown. John retired in poor health from asbestos-related respiratory problems in 2000, but he and his wife Shirley felt secure knowing that their most critical employee benefits were guaranteed for life.

Then everything changed. Bain Capital, the private equity firm which gained control of GS Industries in 1993, declared bankruptcy for the mill in 2001, and quickly shut down the plant. A few months later, Bain dropped another hammer on the workforce: it was reneging on its promise to cover the lifetime worker benefits. Suddenly, the Cottrells’ future was very much in doubt.

“He thought these things couldn’t be touched,” said Shirley Cottrell in an interview. “He and the other workers trusted the company’s promises.”

For the rest click here.

Many GSI workers spent decades working at the factory, it's entrance shown here in disrepair, even as the walls began to fall down around them and the air became toxic. (Reuters)

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