DES MOINES, Iowa (March 22, 2000)—United Steelworkers Local 164 will have to pay legal fees for Titan International Inc. after a judge found the union in contempt of a picketing injunction at Titan´s Des Moines farm tire plant.
A Polk County district court judge ruled Feb. 17 that members of Local 164 violated a June 1998 injunction by picketing at an unapproved plant gate and using "insulting" and "vulgar" language against current Titan employees, including replacement workers. Judge Artis Reis ruled March 10 that the union must pay Titan´s attorney fees.
About 670 members of Local 164 went on strike against Titan in May 1998.
The injunction, which later was amended twice, limited the number of picketers at designated gate sites, set parameters on the allowable proximity to the gates and outlined acceptable behaviors on the line.
Union members began picketing last Dec. 22 at the West Lot or Titan Distribution gate at the corner of East Market and S.E. 24th Court streets, according to the court order. Though Titan Tire Corp. and Titan Distribution employees used the entrance, it mainly had been ignored by strikers and wasn´t mentioned in the injunction.
The court order said that on Dec. 22 and 23, a group of strikers gathered at the West Lot gate and directed offensive language and "hand gestures" to the employees leaving the plant. The intent of the behavior was to "intimidate and alarm" the employees, thus violating the injunction, the order said.
Judge Reis also ruled that because the West Lot gate was not mentioned in the injunction, picketing was not permitted there pending another amendment to the order.
Local 164 believed it could have as many pickets as it wanted to post at the gate because it wasn´t named in the injunction.
Local 164 President John Peno, who also was named in the contempt citation, said the union has done everything it could to correct the problem and would abide by the decision.
Mr. Peno and Local 164 were cited for contempt one other time during the strike, in June 1998, for violating the picket limit at several plant gates.
"It´s generally been a nonviolent strike," he said. "Usually people do what we´ve asked them to do, and it´s up to us to take actions to see it remains that way."
Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan president and CEO, called the incident a case of "willful harassment." ©