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Capitol Hill Shop Steward

Clinton's Rich Pardon
The Final

As featured in
Labor Party Press

As virtually his last act in office, the man that labor put — and kept — in the White House pardons the most notorious unionbuster of the decade ...

This issue, your Capitol Hill Shop Steward would like to take you on a short tour.

It is a tour of the final days and hours of the Clinton administration. Our tour will include a close-up view of the real Washington, D.C. We will also visit a small town in West Virginia. And as with all good tours, our brief journey will include some very interesting ruins.

Let’s begin during the final days of the Clinton White House, when every lawyer and fixer on the east coast was busy pulling strings, sending e-mails, and making calls to get someone pardoned before Clinton headed off into retirement. (Republicans practice this ritual when they leave office too, of course.)

Two people seen hanging around the White House in those waning days were Beth Dozoretz and Denise Rich, close friends of the President. Beth, as you might remember, is the frighteningly rich woman who fell into the job of chief fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee a few years ago. Her only qualification was that she was very, very rich, and apparently enjoyed calling up other very, very rich people to ask them for very, very large donations to the Democratic Party and its subsidiaries. If you want more, dig out your copy of the July 1999 Labor Party Press for my report on Beth Dozoretz.

By now you have heard of the second woman, Denise Rich, the ex-wife of fugitive billionaire commodities trader Marc Rich. Denise is also obscenely wealthy, and she too enjoys dumping huge quantities of cash into just about anything associated with the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton. Denise and Beth are good friends. Lately they’ve been excited about raising money for Clinton’s presidential library.


What these two women accomplished in the dwindling light of the Clinton presidency was extraordinary: They managed to buy a pardon for the man who committed the largest tax fraud in U.S. history, a man who also happens to be one of the past decade’s most notorious unionbusters.

Marc Rich was the mystery-man-in-exile who controlled the Ravenswood Aluminum Company (RAC) in Ravenswood, West Virginia. In the middle of the night back in October 1991, Rich’s private army of goons physically ejected hundreds of Steelworkers from their jobs and declared all 1,700 USWA Local 5668 members locked out. Rich’s underlings turned the plant into an armed bunker. Barbed-wire fences, boarded-up windows, an armored train full of hundreds of scabs, stormtroopers with attack dogs, and everything in sight illuminated with searchlights and covered with bullet-proof steel casing. Workers called it Fort RAC.

I visited Fort RAC the morning after the lockout began, as I was on union assignment just up the road. I have never before, or since, witnessed a company so violent, anti-union, and brazen. It was after several visits to the Ravenswood picketline that I first heard the name "Marc Rich."

It took the members and families of USWA Local 5668, the national Steelworkers Union, the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department, and the support of the entire world labor movement to bring an end to that lockout. It lasted 20 months. The toll exacted on the union families of Ravenswood was, of course, enormous. And it all fell at the doorstep of Marc Rich. In the end, the locked out union members entered the plant with a full-blown parade, having won against all odds. If you have not purchased and read a copy of Ravenswood: The Steelworkers’ Victory and the Revival of American Labor by Tom Juravich and Kate Bronfenbrenner, you should. It’s published by Cornell and available in paperback from

On his very last day in office, Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich and his partner-in-crime Pincus "Pinky" Green. But Denise, Beth, Marc, and Pinky were already celebrating. Ten days earlier, Clinton had phoned Beth and Denise to give them word of his decision to "do it" as they were sunning themselves on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado.


When she appeared before a congressional committee investigating the pardons on March 1, Beth Dozoretz refused to answer any questions on the grounds that it might incriminate her. Denise Rich is expected to do the same. A grand jury has been selected to do a little digging into the Rich pardon. It looks like everyone involved in this scheme is going to need lots of legal advice and antiperspirant.

A whole lot of Democrats just want the whole episode to pass. And a whole lot of Republicans are not sure how much to investigate the Rich affair, since many prominent Republicans have been on the Rich payroll themselves. This includes a former Rich attorney who now works for Vice President Dick Cheney — this guy even telephoned Rich recently to congratulate him!

That’s the tour, my friends. And the ruins I promised? I’m afraid I’m referring to the reputation of the labor movement in the wake of Bill Clinton. Think about it: As virtually his last act in office, the man that labor put — and kept — in the White House pardons the most notorious unionbuster of the decade.

Our standing is so low in this city that Rich’s unionbusting record is not even viewed as a problem. The newspapers won’t talk about it. The Democrats won’t either. And as best I can tell, even the labor movement — with the exception of the Steelworkers — has been silent too. For Clinton’s biggest promoters, the Rich episode is better left to fade from memory. This one can’t be explained away.

I therefore propose a fitting response to this final Clinton insult to the labor movement. I will be donating $100 out of my own pocket to the Labor Party in honor of this great presidential act. Will you join me? Please make your checks payable to "Labor Party," and mail them to P.O. Box 53177, Washington, D.C. 20009. I’ll be checking the mail.

Donate to the Marc Rich Pardon/Labor Party Fund Drive in honor of President Clinton’s final insult to organized labor:

___ $25 Surprised by the pardon

___ $50 Shocked by the pardon

___ $75 Disgusted by the pardon

___ $100 Not surprised at all by the pardon

Chris Townsend is political action director of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).

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