a dangerous business
mcwane story

the mcwane story
Read about its philosophy, its record, and the people killed in its plants. Plus, examine company and government documents -- and more of McWane's response to FRONTLINE, The New York Times and the CBC's reporting.

Two Companies, Two Visions

The McWane corporation's aggressive management style -- what it calls "disciplined management practices" -- has helped the company to achieve tremendous profits through increasing worker productivity. Some critics argue, however, that McWane's gains have come at a very high cost: its workers' safety -- and in some cases their lives. But McWane's way of doing business is not the only way, as a comparison with its longtime Birmingham competitor, the American Cast Iron Pipe Co. (ACIPCO), clearly suggests. Here's a look at the two companies, both founded and based in Birmingham, Ala., and their competing visions.
The Victims

Here are profiles of seven employees who were injured or killed at McWane plants. With foundries stretching across 10 U.S. states and Canada, over the past seven years McWane Inc. has amassed more safety violations than all of its major competitors combined. More than 4,600 of its workers have been hurt on the job since 1995, and nine have been killed.
OSHA Rejects a McWane Partnership

On Jan. 3, 2003, the director of OSHA's enforcement program sent McWane this letter in response to McWane's proposal to partner with OSHA to improve its worker safety program. He writes, "Most employers OSHA partners with have demonstrated a strong prior commitment towards worker health and safety; your history with the Agency does not yet demonstrate this level of commitment. More specifically, given the relatively recent history at the Tyler Pipe facility, we cannot at [t]his time conclude that such is evident throughout McWane facilities."
Conditions at Tyler Pipe: OSHA Inspection Report

In 1995, McWane subsidiary Ransom Industries bought Tyler Pipe Co. in Tyler, Texas. Federal officials say that since its purchase by McWane, Tyler Pipe has stood out as a repetitive violator of safety rules. In this report, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, federal inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), detail conditions at the plant, including scarred and disfigured workers, puddles of molten metal on the floor, and poorly lit work areas.
McWane Makes Its Case

In this confidential 1996 memo to the New York State attorney general's office, McWane's attorneys state that the company would not accept any criminal responsibility for the 1995 death of an employee at its Kennedy Valve plant in Elmira, N.Y. Playing political hardball, they warn that criminal charges "could result in the closure of Kennedy Valve that would cost the Elmira area more than 320 jobs."

> McWane's Response

Although McWane would not agree to a face-to-face interview for this story, the company sent a number of e-mails and letters during the course of FRONTLINE, The New York Times, and the CBC's reporting. Here is an extended excerpt from a letter sent by McWane Inc. President G. Ruffner Page on Oct. 17, 2002, that articulates the company's defense of its corporate safety and environmental policies.

FRONTLINE's Partners in This Report

> The New York Times: Dangerous Business

Read their three-part series entitled "Dangerous Business." The Web site also includes an extended multimedia feature with an interactive graphic on how cast-iron pipe is made; charts that detail McWane's safety record in comparison to its major competitors; and "behind the scenes" audio from reporters Lowell Bergman and David Barstow.

> CBC News: A Toxic Company

Through takeovers and mergers since 1989, McWane has won control of the lion's share of the Canadian market for cast-iron pipes and related products. On the CBC's Web site, read more about McWane's presence in Canada -- including documents related to the company's 1995 guilty plea for conspiring to unduly lessen competition in the supply and sale of ductile iron pipe -- and more of the company's response to the joint reporting of FRONTLINE, The New York Times, and the CBC.

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