A guest contribution from CLN Member John Murphy
Clean Up Kingspan, a worker-led effort to make changes at Kingspan, the $11 billion dollar Irish-based global building manufacturer, has made progress in 2022 by working together and expanding their outreach to leaders in the green building community.
The campaign kicked off in 2021, when workers at the Kingspan Light + Air factory in Santa Ana, CA petitioned the company to clean up health and safety concerns and to agree to a fair process for workers to decide whether or not to join a union. They did this on the heels of an innovative air monitoring study carried out inside the factory, finding “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” measurements of PM 2.5 levels on a majority of the air monitors that workers carried and installed beside their workstations.
Kingspan management, in turn, dismissed the workers’ concerns, even going so far as to say the air inside the facility is safe to breathe and that they will not agree to a fair process for workers to decide whether or not to join a union.
CalOSHA and CalEPA were more receptive to workers. Both agencies took worker filed complaints seriously and, within a year, CalOSHA cited Kingspan with 22 health and safety violations (5 of them serious) and the Santa Ana Regional Water Board issued a notice of violation of its industrial pollution permit.
But that was not enough to alleviate all the workers’ health and safety concerns, not to mention their demand for a fair process was rejected. Then, in early 2022, an immigrant worker was discharged from his employment immediately after visiting Human Resources to update his social security number, an alleged violation of CA Labor Code § 1024.6.
Concerns over health and safety, immigrant rights and environmental injustice on the job have propelled workers and their community to expand the campaign throughout the year. With the support of union members in SMART, the sheet metal workers union, as well as labor, faith, environmental justice and political allies, they have reached out to the broader green building community with a message- they too have a role in changing Kingspan.
The American Institute of Architects, Capital Group, Facades +, Lowes Home Improvement… all of these organizations, investors and businesses, have leadership in the community and can influence Kingspan- whether by engaging with the company about their record on immigrant rights, ensuring that ESG guidelines are adhered to, or supporting workers’ rights to a clean and safe workplace. They can learn about the issues, communicate with Kingspan and, if need be, end their partnership with the company.
Santa Ana Kingspan workers now look to 2023 focused on organizing around these issues with the faith that by doing so, along with solidarity actions from allies and movement on the part of the broader green building community, more progress will be made to clean up their workplace. If you’re interested in supporting Clean Up Kingspan and getting campaigns updates, sign up here: https://cleanupkingspan.org/take-action/