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A $4.3 million verdict returned by an Ohio federal court has not put an end to a violent labor dispute between Middletown, Ohio-based AK Steel and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). The union and its Local 169 have decided to appeal the jury’s Nov. 1 finding that the union played a role in the violence that has disrupted production at AK’s Mansfield, Ohio, plant since 1999. At midnight on the day the collective bargaining agreement between the USWA and Armco Inc. (since acquired by AK) expired, Armco locked out all union members, citing work slowdowns and threats to personnel. AK claimed the lockout was followed by numerous instances of violence directed toward the plant, its officials and workers hired to replace Local 169 members during the lockout. AK general counsel David C. Horn told a congressional subcommittee on employer-employee relations that numerous bomb threats were made, several bombs were detonated and that several unexploded pipe bombs were found on the plant grounds. He also cited instances where dead animals were used to threaten officials. A clash between the two sides — called a “riot” by AK and a “solidarity rally” by the USWA — ended with eight people being sent to the hospital, Horn said. Pursuing a case first filed by Armco, AK’s lawyers, Frost Brown Todd of Cincinatti, claimed that the USWA and Local 169 breached their contract by purposefully slowing down work, sabotaging operations and refusing to work overtime. The jury awarded $3 million on that claim. AK also alleged tortious interference with business and contractual relations under 29 U.S.C. 301, citing the USWA’s continued participation in violence directed toward the plant and its officials. The jury returned $1,367,489 on this count. An AK spokesman, Alan H. McCoy, said the company was “gratified that the jury agreed that violence has no place in labor disputes.” USWA spokesman Mike Zielinski said that “the union has never organized or condoned any acts of violence as AK alleges” and added that the union will appeal the verdict. At trial, the union was represented by Bredhoff & Kaiser of Washington, D.C., and Schwarzwald & McNair of Cleveland.

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