INS: Foreign workers not at Titan Tire plant illegally

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Eight Uruguayan workers training at Titan Tire Natchez plant are not there illegally, a regional immigration official said Wednesday.

On Monday, United Steelworkers of America Local 303L issued a press released stating that the workers, who are employed by the Titan plant in Uruguay, entered the country without work visas, which is illegal.

After receiving calls from union President Leo &uot;T-Bone&uot; Bradley and U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss., asking for an inquiry, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service probed the situation.

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&uot;Mr. Bradley had called Mr. Shows, asking (Shows) to request an inquiry,&uot; said Mike Johnston, assistant district director for INS’ New Orleans office.

Investigators found the men were issued limited visas by the American embassy in Uruguay, said Mike Johnston, assistant district director for the agency’s regional office in New Orleans.

They also found that men had been issued visas to train at the Natchez plant for only 45 days.

&uot;If they begin doing work at the plant, then there’s a problem, but there’s no evidence now that they’re doing that,&uot;&160;Johnston said.

Bradley said the union will continue to monitor the workers’ status. &uot;We will continue to pursue this because … we were told (by the American embassy in Uruguay) that they did not have visas,&uot; Bradley said. &uot;We’ll take this to the Department of Labor and ask them to investigate it.&uot;

The men are there to train on radio truck tire equipment that is now obsolete in North America but can be used to make tires for several more years in Uruguay for that country’s tire market, said Morry Taylor, chief executive officer of Titan International.

Following training, the machines will be taken apart and shipped from the Natchez facility to Titan’s plant in Uruguay, Taylor said.

&uot;They (Natchez union members) don’t have anything to do but whine, because they don’t want to work,&uot;&160;he added.

&uot;They aren’t going there (to the&160;Natchez plant) to train — they’re going there to work, and it’s not right.&uot; Bradley said. &uot;How can you train someone when you don’t speak the same language?&uot;

Local 303L has been on strike from Titan Tire of Natchez since September 1998.

The strike, which involved more than 200 workers, began when Titan was given the right to buy the bankrupt plant from Fidelity-Condere. Several negotiations took place between Titan and union officials, with few results, until talks last broke off in June 1999.