Alcoa’s History of Corruption and Bribery: Part One

Apart from environmental abuses and neglect that Alcoa refuses to address; such as, the discovery of carcinogenic PCBs in its reservoir Badin Lake that have been linked to Alcoa’s own former smelting operations, the company has had a pattern of corruption and bribery over the last few years that make one question whether they are the type of corporation that should be doing business with North Carolina – especially handling one of our biggest water resources for half a century.  

Consider these facts:

  • The executive board of the German company Siemens wants Klaus Kleinfeld, current Alcoa CEO, to pay $2.95 million in damages to the company relating to a multi-billion-euro bribery scandal. Kleinfeld was chief executive at Siemens from 2005 until assuming his present leadership at Alcoa. Source:
  • Erin Brockovich, the health advocate portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie of the same name a few years ago, has championed legal action against Alcoa on behalf of residents and former inhabitants of Yarloop, Australia, who allege that the company’s Wagerup refinery has made them sick. Her lawsuit accuses Alcoa of poisoning the community with toxic emissions. Source:,21598,25624988-5017963,00.html
  • An Alcoa employee successfully sued the company in U.S. Supreme Court on charges it did not comply with OSHA regulations prohibiting employees who had been exposed to asbestos from taking their clothes home to be laundered. The employee believes his clothes held the dust he accumulated during his work day led to the death of his daughter. She died in 2005 from issues related to mesothelioma, a disease caused by asbestos exposure. Prior to the court’s decision, an Alcoa spokesman said the case had no merit. Source:
  • After cleanup had been stalled for a decade, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered the state Ecology Department to speed up negotiations with Alcoa to remove more than 5,000 cubic yards of PCB-tainted sediment from the Columbia River and its shoreline at an old Alcoa smelter site in Vancouver, Wash. To date, Alcoa has spent about $42 million cleaning up the site, including $34 million to clean up PCBs.  Source:
  • Alcoa received an exemption from state environmental laws in Texas that allow it to continue emitting 60,000 tons of sulphur dioxide annually into the air in Rockdale, maintaining Alcoa’s position as one of Texas’ top polluters. Over the border in Mexico, it operated what a National Labor Committee report of June 2002 termed a “high tech sweatshop” where the very highest wage a senior Alcoa worker could earn there was $86.58 per week, including all benefits. The reported added that “Alcoa wants to pit workers in the United States against the desperately poor workers in Mexico – and other developing countries – in a race to the bottom over who will accept the lowest wages and least benefits, the most miserable living and working conditions.” Source:

These are just some of many examples I can provide right now. More will be coming in a future installment.  Taken together, they paint a disturbing picture of a company focused more on the bottom line than in the communities it serves.

Alcoa has virtually no other ties to North Carolina apart from plundering our water in the Yadkin River to use as a free fuel source to power its turbines and generate hydroelectricity it sells for profit at tens of millions annually.  Should we really want the likes of these types to be our neighbors?