Armand Hammer seeks to display his global concerns in the article he co-authored (Editorial Pages, April 26), "Out of Tragedy, an Opportunity--Chernobyl's Lesson Is That All Of Us Must Share This Planet." But he has utterly failed in his responsibility to meet the challenge of correcting inhuman conditions in his own backyard.
The high-tech, multinational conglomerate operations of Occidental Petroleum, the world-girdling jet travel of its board chairman and chief executive officer, Armand Hammer, and his patronage of the arts and academia are all heavily financed by the savage exploitation of workers in a single labor-intensive, wholly owned Oxy subsidiary: IBP, Inc.
IBP is the world's largest meat packing company, with 1985 sales of $6.5 billion. This was 45% at Oxy's total revenue of $14.5 billion!
On Dec. 14, 1986, IBP locked out 2,800 workers at its flagship Dakota City, Neb., plant (one of 10 in the United States) after United Food and Commercial Workers Local 222 had voted 2,250 to 50 to reject IBP's contract proposals. The local workers offered to continue work while negotiations proceeded, but IBP shut them out instead.
In mid-March, IBP lifted the lockout. 2,500 members of the local voted unanimously to reject the IBP "final" contract offer and declared a strike.
This is only the most recent phase of a bitter struggle: In 1969, there was a 7 1/2-month strike; in 1972, an 8-month lockout; in 1977-78, a 15-month strike; in 1982 a 4-month strike.
With high courage and resolve, the workers have waged a fight for decent wages and benefits, for safe and healthful conditions in the workplace and for simple human dignity. Here are some of the conditions under which they labor:
--In an already hazardous industry, IBP's injury and illness-lost workdays rate is 43% above the industry average (see Times story on IBP March 2, 1987).
--IBP extracted $1.07 in "give backs" (1983 through 1986); blocked general wage increases for the last five years.
--IBP now proposes additional "give backs," wage-rate cuts, lower hiring-in rates, no pension plan.
--Standing side by side at a chain belt line allowing about 48 inches of work space for each, workers wielding razor-sharp knives and power tools try frantically to keep up with production carried to their work stations. Most workers toil in numbing cold of 30 to 35 degrees, standing in blood and animal fat, which creates a dangerously slippery floor.
--Through August of 1986, 1,600 workers quit and were replaced; in 1985, the number was 2,513; in 1984, 2,236!
Armand Hammer proclaims himself a champion of human rights. He donated an art collection to the National Gallery (Times, April 24). He contributed $1 million to UCLA (Times, April 17). His virtues were extolled in a long letter to The Times (April 10). Colleagues have suggested his name for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Perhaps amid his global interests, the trivial matter of the broken bodies and damaged lives of his workers has simply escaped his attention--the very workers whose toil has supplied the profits to stoke his power, privileges and philanthropies.
Face up to your obligations at home, Mr. Armand Hammer!
DAVID T. BARRY
International Vice President
United Food and
Commercial Workers Union