BATON ROUGE, La., April 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) and other union and community groups gathered on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol yesterday afternoon to challenge North American Salt to reinstate a decorated Iraq war veteran fired for attending mandatory Veterans Administration (VA) appointments.
Veteran Derrick Forestier told North American Salt at the time of his hiring at the company’s Cote Blanche, La., underground salt mine that he would need time off to attend VA appointments so he could access his earned benefits. The manager who hired him approved the visits, but several months later he was fired after returning from a VA appointment he had notified management about in advance. The United Steelworkers (USW), which represents the workers at the mine, is determined to get Forestier reinstated with full backpay.
“What happened to Derrick is a travesty and an insult to all veterans everywhere,” said Jim Lefton, assistant to the director for USW District 13. “He received many awards for his service in the military, including a Bronze Star. North American Salt has no excuse for terminating his employment.”
Louisiana State Representative Kenneth Cox vowed to submit a bill in the Louisiana State Legislature making it illegal for employers to terminate a returning veteran for keeping medical appointments associated with the person’s discharge from military service. He called the actions taken by North American Salt “deplorable.”
“We as a country did not do right by our Vietnam Vets, and I vow it will not happen again,” State Rep. Cox said at the rally. He served 25 years in the U.S. Army and retired a colonel.
Forestier’s termination is also another example of why U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-25th Dist.) has introduced the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act to protect veterans from discrimination in the workplace for time spent receiving treatment for injuries and disabilities caused by their service.
In a letter to USW District 13 Director Mickey Breaux, Rep. Doggett wrote: “No veteran should have to stand in front of their employer after suffering an injury while serving the red, white and blue and be given a pink slip. Workers and veterans like Derrick Forestier, an Army Sergeant First Class who served 24 years on active duty, including three combat tours of duty and five deployments, should not be forced to choose between keeping a job or receiving the veteran’s benefits he rightfully earned.”
Rep. Doggett’s letter can be accessed HERE.
“Representatives from USW local unions and other union and community groups throughout the area—the Louisiana State AFL-CIO; American Assoc. of State, County & Municipal Employees; Plumbers & Pipefitters Union; Electrical Workers Union and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade— attended the rally and echoed their belief that no returning veteran should be subjected to this kind of treatment,” Lefton said. “They vowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the USW in our fight to see that Sergeant Forestier’s injustice is righted.”
North American Salt is a subsidiary of Compass Minerals, a mining and materials company headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., with operations in the U.S., Canada and the UK. The company had 2011 sales of $1.1 billion.
The USW represents about 100 workers at the Cote Blanche, La., mine and about a dozen workers at a Duluth, Minn., packaging plant owned by Compass Minerals.
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, energy and the service sector.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)