McWane Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama, is one of America’s largest
privately owned corporations. Their corporate philosophy and hard
nosed management practices have been blamed for an extraordinary
history of work place injuries and fatalities in their foundries.
companies manufacture cast iron pipes and various components for
municipal, commercial and residential water and waste-disposal services.
Their operating revenues are estimated to be worth between US$1.5
and $2 billion a year.
the U.S., since 1995, they’ve been guilty of more than 400
health and safety violations in workplaces they own in 10 states.
Since 1995, 4,600 workers have been injured in their foundries.
1999, four years after McWane bought a pipe foundry in Tyler, Texas,
U.S. safety inspectors described conditions there in Dickensian
terms in an official report: “Many workers have scars or disfigurations
which are noticeable from several feet away. Burns and amputations
are frequent… Throughout the plant in supervisors offices
and on bulletin boards next to production charts is posted in big
orange letters: REDUCE MAN HOURS PER TON.”
takeovers and mergers since 1989, McWane have won control of the
lion’s share of the Canadian market for cast iron pipes and
related products. While there have been no workplace fatalities
in McWane Canadian operations, one of three foundries they own in
Quebec had the worst incidence of on-the-job injuries in the entire
McWane family of companies in 2001, according to internal company
documents. (read more about McWane in Canada)
Canadian market is worth an estimated $100 million a year and Canadian
firms have complained that McWane marketing tactics unfairly restrict
competition and distort the market place --- to the ultimate detriment
of consumers and taxpayers. Canada’s federal competition bureau
is currently pursuing a complaint of coercive practices that compel
customers to buy McWane products exclusively.
1995 they were fined $2.5 million after an effort to force a major
American competitor to stop selling pipe in Canada. Bill Miller,
a senior lawyer with the Canadian Competition Bureau, refers to
their behaviour as “lawless”, in an interview with the
fifth estate. (read documents that the
fifth estate uncovered about McWane's business practices in Canada)
this co-production with PBS
Frontline and The
New York Times, a former U.S. health and safety regulator refers
to McWane as a “rogue” company. (for more about see
officials declined requests for interviews but responded to comments
and criticisms in written correspondence with journalists who worked
on this project. (read
For more detailed information about McWane read the New
York Times report called Dangerous
Business. The article is accompanied by a multimedia
Flash presentation. It will be published in three parts, starting
on Wednesday January 8.
has produced an in-depth companion web site for their documentary,
Dangerous Business. Read profiles
of American victims injured or killed working at the US McWane
plants and find out more about McWane's aggressive management style