OHSA preparing charges against Titan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2000

Contempt of court charges against Titan Tire of Natchez are &uot;in the preparation stage,&uot; a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration official said Thursday.

&uot;That would be the next natural step&uot; after plant officials refused to allow an OSHA inspector to enter the plant Monday even though the inspector had a warrant to do so, said Clyde Payne, director of the agency’s Jackson office.

The charges, which are being prepared by OSHA’s attorneys in Birmingham, Ala., would be filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson and would be heard by Magistrate Judge Alfred Nichols, Payne said.

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He added that the agency can investigate complaints brought by employees or their representatives who believe their workplaces are violating safety standards or putting workers in eminent danger.

Non-employees can file complaints, but the company can investigate them itself and report to OSHA later.

&uot;But (OSHA) shows up at our door because of a claim from the union,&uot;&160;said Titan CEO Morry Taylor. &uot;An employee can call (OSHA) if something in the plant is unsafe … but (union members) haven’t worked here in over a year.

&uot;This is just a harassment tactic.&uot;

The union to which Taylor was referring is United Steelworkers of America Local 303L, which has been on strike from Titan’s Natchez plant since September 1998.

Meanwhile, attorney Payton Irby of Jackson filed a motion Tuesday in District Court to quash the warrant.

Payne would not verify whether or not the union filed the complaint and would not say what possible violations the agency is seeking to investigate.

On Oct. 22, OSHA inspectors were barred from entering the plant to investigate the same complaints. At that time, the inspectors did not have a warrant to search the property, so barring their entry was not against the law.

&uot;What do they have to hide?&uot; Local 303L President Leo &uot;T-Bone&uot; Bradley said Wednesday.

He did not return calls Thursday.