Citing unsafe working conditions and allegations of hazardous waste dumping, the UAW is demanding that the NFL investigate its newest team owner.
Shahid Khan, the billionaire who bought the Jacksonville for $760 million in November, also owns Flex-N-Gate, the 15th largest automotive supplier in North America. The company's growth is largely due to the production of chrome-plated truck bumpers treated with hexavalent chromium, prolonged exposure to which can cause, according to OSHA, lung cancer; irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs and damage to the eyes and skin.
Environmental, safety and labor concerns at Flex-N-Gate plants prompted the UAW to deliver a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, asking the league to investigate Khan’s business practices and determine "whether the billionaire’s conduct is detrimental to the welfare of the league or professional football."
The letter, which was signed by a delegation of workers and community residents from Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, cites a number of concerns about Khan’s auto parts operations:
• Workers at a Flex-N-Gate plant in Urbana, Ill., filed complaints with the OSHA alleging exposure to hazardous chemicals.
• Workers at a Flex-N-Gate plant in Veedersburg, Ind., recently filed a similar complaint after a chemical accident sent two workers to the hospital.
• The company was was cited for 39 violations of hazardous waste regulations over 20 years at Chrome Craft, a closed bumper plant in Highland Park, Mich.
• Former Chrome Craft workers and neighborhood residents say they have witnessed dumping of hazardous wastes, potentially contaminating the neighborhood behind the plant with hexavalent chromium.
“If an NFL player was involved in an off-the-field incident which sent two people to the hospital, I’m sure the league would investigate,” said Pastor D. Alexander Bullock, senior pastor of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church and the Michigan State Coordinator for Operation PUSH. Pastor Bullock’s church is blocks away from Khan’s closed Chrome Craft plant in Highland Park. “NFL owners, no less than players, should be held to the highest standards of ethical conduct.”
“The NFL says people look to it as a leader, and that’s correct,” said Cindy Estrada, who directs the union’s Independents, Parts and Suppliers Department. “We need to make sure that the league’s owners are role models, too, when it comes to how they treat workers, communities, and the environment.”