Koch Industries Wins Labor Praise for Collective Bargaining Role

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Koch Industries Inc., which spent $1.2 million in 2010 to help elect governors who oppose collective bargaining for public employees, won praise from a labor union official for backing the rights of factory workers.

Koch’s Georgia Pacific unit “has positive collective bargaining relationships with its unions,” Jon Geenen, international vice president of the United Steelworkers union, wrote in a blog post on the group’s website.

“The company’s workforce is highly unionized,” Geenen wrote. “It is not inaccurate to say these are among the best-paid manufacturing jobs in America.”

Koch Industries, a closely held energy and chemical company based in Wichita, Kansas, is controlled by David and Charles Koch, billionaire brothers. Koch, which owns refiner Flint Hills Resources LLC and C. Reiss Coal Co., has opposed labor on regulation and free trade, said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Washington-based advocacy group Public Citizen.

Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, elected last year with Koch support, pushed bills to limit the ability of public-employee unions to negotiate for salaries and benefits.

Cash from Koch Industries, its employees and units included $1.1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which spent more than $3.4 million to back Walker, according to Common Cause, a Washington-based advocacy group that opposes the governor’s proposal. Koch gave $43,000 directly to Walker, his single largest corporate donation, and $22,000 to Kasich, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Boycottkochbrothers.com and a Facebook page called Boycott Koch Industries are among Internet efforts urging supporters of union rights to avoid buying products from companies owned by the Koch brothers.

Georgia Pacific’s “plants, though, are great examples of American advanced manufacturing,” Geenen wrote. The company “makes everyday products like facial tissues, napkins, paper towels, paper cups and the like.”

The Steelworkers said boycotting Koch companies could ultimately hurt union workers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at hrosenkrantz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net