UNICOR faces new pair of lawsuits
By Henry Leineweber, Resource Recycling
Federal Prison Industries, Inc., better known as UNICOR, is once again facing a lawsuit regarding worker safety and environmental standards at its electronics recycling operations.
UNICOR, which operates an inmate work program at federal corrections facilities, has been processing electronic scrap for nearly two decades. The suits allege that improper material handling, storage, safety and general working conditions exposed inmates and workers to toxic levels of heavy metals, which have resulted in a range of health problems. Two lawsuits have been filed in Panama City, Florida, U.S. District Court – one on behalf of 82 current and former UNICOR employees and one on behalf of 83 family members. A suit representing inmates has not been filed.
This is not the first time grievances have been filed against the company. Similar lawsuits were dismissed as recently as recently as 2009 and 2010. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General released a highly critical report of UNICOR's e-scrap operations in 2010.
To UNICOR's credit, the suits allege the majority of infractions took place before major EH&S improvements began to be implemented in 2003. Since then, UNICOR has continued efforts to clean up its operations, recently announcing that seven of its facilities had successfully achieved R2 certification.