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Oklahoma: 12 fired from Weyerhaeuser for guns in cars

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by publius, Nov 28, 2004.

  1. publius

    publius Participating Member

    Feb 7, 2003
    Punta Gorda, FL
    In Oklahoma, a Ban
    On Guns Pits State
    Against Big Firms

    Weyerhaeuser Fired Workers
    Who Had Weapons in Cars,
    And Legal Dispute Unfolds

    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    November 26, 2004; Page A1

    VALLIANT, Okla. -- In late summer of 2002, Steve Bastible put three bullets into a dying cow at his ranch, threw the emptied rifle behind the seat of his pickup and forgot about it.

    A few weeks later, the rifle cost him his job of 23 years.

    That Oct. 1, in a surprise search, Weyerhaeuser Co. sent gun-sniffing dogs into the parking lot of its paper mill here. Mr. Bastible and 11 other workers were fired after guns were found in their vehicles. The timber company said the weapons violated a new company policy that extended a longtime workplace gun ban to the parking area. The fired workers said they knew nothing of the new rule.

    The firings outraged many in this wooded community in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. In rural Oklahoma, carrying a firearm in one's car is commonplace. "In Oklahoma, gun control is when you hit what you shoot at," says Jerry Ellis, a member of the state legislature.

    Now, the dispute is reverberating beyond the borders of tiny Valliant, located in the southeast corner of the state. In response, the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a law giving Oklahomans the right to keep guns locked in their cars in parking lots. But just days before the law was to go into effect this month, several prominent companies with Oklahoma operations, including Whirlpool Corp. and ConocoPhillips sued to stop it. A federal judge put the law on hold pending a hearing.

    Meanwhile, several of the paper-mill workers have filed wrongful-discharge lawsuits against Weyerhaeuser and its subcontractors, which employed the workers. "This is a heck of an injustice that needs to be fixed," says their Tulsa lawyer, Larry Johnson, 72 years old, who has spent a lifetime studying the second amendment.

    On one side, companies are trying to keep guns away from the workplace, driven by real-life horror stories of disgruntled employees on the rampage, stalking the hallways and shooting down bosses and co-workers. On the other side are employees who argue that guns help keep law-abiding workers safer.

    The debate transcends partisan politics. Nearly 90% of voters in the county are registered Democrats, and yet 66% of county voters cast ballots for George Bush for president, in part because they viewed him as more pro-gun.

    The new law was sponsored by Mr. Ellis, a Democrat from McCurtain County. It passed unanimously in the Oklahoma Senate, and on a 92-4 vote in the House. "I just didn't think the state should be dictating weapons policy to property owners," says J. Mike Wilt, a Republican from Bartlesville who was among the four voting against the law.

    Mr. Ellis, a former mill worker himself, counters: "These are good, hardworking, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. I just wish these big companies could understand that these people are not a threat to anybody."

    Guns are part of everyday life in McCurtain County, where many residents hunt and ranch, and houses are miles apart. In the local gun and pawn shop in the county seat of Idabel, worker David Brakebill spreads out a map on the counter and points to the green blotches representing vast expanses of tree-covered wilderness. "When you call the police," says Vicki Luna, an owner of the gun store, "they don't get there for 30 minutes -- if they can find your house."

    The Weyerhaeuser paper mill has been the largest employer in town for more than 30 years, providing about 2,500 jobs in the area and contributing more than $55 million annually to the local economy in taxes, payroll and community donations, according to the company. The whole gun flap actually started with an apparent drug overdose at the plant. Plant manager Randy Nebel hired a security company to bring in four dogs to search for drugs and guns in the parking lot. The dogs didn't find any drugs but zeroed in on several vehicles containing firearms.

    The company then ordered the workers to open the suspect cars so that they could be hand-searched. A dozen workers, four Weyerhaeuser employees and eight who worked for subcontractors, were suspended for having rifles, shotguns or handguns. A couple of days later, they were fired as part of Weyerhaeuser and its subcontractors' zero-tolerance policy for major safety violations, the companies say.

    Jimmy "Red" Wyatt, a 45-year-old father of five who worked his way up from the factory floor to supervisor in his 22 years at the mill, says he often carried his rifle to scare off coyotes threatening the cattle he raises in his spare time. A shotgun also found was left over from bird hunting with his sons the day before.

    Mr. Nebel says that firing Mr. Wyatt, a model worker, was difficult. But after clearing the parking lot of guns, "I believe the plant is safer," he said.

    The plant manager said the new gun rule had been in place since January 2002 after reversing a previous policy that had allowed workers to leave their guns locked in their cars. The company says it told workers in writing and during "team meetings" of the new policy. "It was well known this would be dealt with severely," said Mr. Nebel. Mr. Wyatt and the other fired workers say they never were told of the changed rule.

    Hearing of the case, the National Rifle Association referred the workers to Mr. Johnson, a longtime gun-rights advocate. Mr. Johnson contacted Mr. Ellis, and together they crafted what was to become the new law. In a recent brief supporting the law, Mr. Johnson sprinkled his legal arguments with historic quotes from poets and philosophers. "I even quoted Christ," he says, reciting a snippet from the Book of Luke in which Jesus admonishes his followers, "Let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one."

    In fighting the law, Oklahoma companies are walking through a community-relations minefield in what is known as an NRA stronghold. The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce normally supports the NRA. But it says it joined the lawsuit opposing the law because it believes companies should be able to exclude weapons from their premises.

    "Things happen at work that make people mad: They don't get a raise," explains attorney David Strecker, who is representing the chamber. "If a gun is handy, someone might use it, and that's just something employers don't want to risk."

    In a surprise move at a hearing on the law in U.S. Chief District Judge Sven Erik Holmes's Tulsa court Tuesday, Whirlpool withdrew from the case, leaving ConocoPhillips and Williams Cos. to lead the lawsuit. Mr. Johnson, who has joined Rep. Ellis in calling for a boycott of Whirlpool and the other companies involved in the lawsuit, said he believes Whirlpool succumbed to worries it might be punished by pro-gun rights consumers. "People are taking it very, very seriously," he said. "Look at how politicians have suffered when they get on the wrong side of this issue."

    Whirlpool responds that it had only been seeking clarification on the law, and that it believes a recent brief by the Oklahoma attorney general gives them the green light to maintain their no-gun policy, resolving their concern. A spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmonson, however, said he didn't agree with that interpretation. Neither did Steven Broussard, the Tulsa attorney for Conoco and Williams. "We feel that nothing has changed and it's very important for us to get a resolution of this," Mr. Broussard said.

    The law remains on hold as the legal dispute unfolds in court.
  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Senior Elder

    Dec 24, 2002
    Da Old Fuff understands ...

    The company doesn't want bad people bringing guns to the factory and shooting it up.

    So they make a rule ... No guns on company property - and no exceptions.

    Now everyone is safe ...

    If they can convince the bad people to follow the rules ... :banghead:
  3. enfield

    enfield Participating Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    We can't protect people from their own idiocy by passing laws. We really don't want to go there.
  4. Waitone

    Waitone Mentor

    Dec 25, 2002
    The Land of Broccoli and Fingernails
    Lemme see if I got this right.

    Since January 2002 a policy is in place that keeps workers from having firearms in thier cars (locked) on private property. During that time there were no incidences of illegal use of said firearms. November 2004 they begin enforcing the law. It is at that point that the company becomes safer????????????

    Are we making progress as a society or what? At first we wanted to make guns safe. Then we moved to laws make guns safe. And now we say the thought of a law makes the gun safe. :eek:

    I hope Oklahoma slaps these companies hard. They are fearful of attorneys first and insurance companies second. Somehow they need to begin fearing the pro-second amendment lobby. :fire:
  5. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

    Dec 24, 2002
    Forestburg, Texas
    It is interesting how gun folks are all about rights to keep and bare arm and the rights to protect their private property, but then get all upset when companies like Weyerhaeuser exercise their rights to not allow guns on property.

    While I don't agree with the decision or the policy, Weyerhaeuser has its rights and the employees know about the rules and apparently decided to violate them. Not everybody had to go out and shoot a dying cow several times and then absent-mindedly toss the firearm in the truck, lose track of it for several weeks, only then to have it discovered by the dogs. I know the description was to make it sound like the guy was really innocent as he didn't realize he was breaking company policy, but in reality, it just shows how poorly he was keeping track of his gun.

    States other than Oklahoma have similar laws, such as Texas. The laws pertain to private property and who gets to be master of said property. Whether it is a person's land, home, or business property not owned by the government or otherwise part of a government institution (some particular types of business, though private, fall under special laws), then it is private property. I am sure most Oklahomans would not like people to come on to their own property with guns and without their permission, especially people not known well or personally by the landowner. The same holds for many companies.

    You have to wonder about the 12 folks who went against company policy. It isn't rocket science. Breaking company policy is a risky business and to be out there and breaking policy just before Christmas is just plain sad. I can see the 'pity me' comments coming already. The fired employees will be talking about the horrors of job loss just before the holiday season and how Christmas won't be right for their kids and oh how terrible Weyerhaeuser for firing them at this time of year, etc. etc. etc. when the blame comes down to their poor decisions or poor ability to manage firearms under their control.

    If you work for a company that does not allow guns and you bring a gun to work in violation of that policy, then you have to figure that the potential is there that sooner or later you may get fired. The same holds for breaking any company policy.
  6. iamkris

    iamkris Senior Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    My own little slice of Purgatory
    As much as I think the above mentioned policy is idiotic, I have to agree with Double Naught Spy above that IF (and I mean if) the company really did publicize the policy then it is shame on the people who broke the policy. Even if you don't like the policy, it is the comany's policy on their own property and you have to obey it.
  7. mlheppl

    mlheppl New Member

    Feb 15, 2004
    New Mexico
    Double Naught Spy hit the nail on the head IMO. I do not want the govt. telling me what I can or cannot allow on my property any more than I want them to tell me if or what kind of firearms that I can own. The RTKBA does not supercede my rights as a property owner OR vice versa.

    I agree with DNS, these employees chose to break the rules. They are a poor example for us to rally around. We as responsible gun owners should rebuke any efforts to make saints of such poor examples of "responsible" gun ownership.

  8. oneshooter

    oneshooter Participating Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    TEXAS, by God
    Most,if not all large companies document ALL training sessions with a sign in sheet.All they have to do is supply this paper and there is NO defence of "I didn't know/you never told me."

    Livin in TEXAS
  9. rick_reno

    rick_reno member

    Dec 25, 2002
    The company, Weyerhaeuser in this instance is simply protecting it's interests with the no gun policy. Remember, in a litigation rich environment, they have the deep pockets and are likely to be sued if an employee does bring a gun into the facility and starts shooting. I'm sure, like most big companies the employees were given a copy of the policies when hired - or when changes were made to them - and asked to sign something stating they'd read them.
    These folks screwed up and they paid for it. Nothing new here.
  10. F4GIB

    F4GIB Participating Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    Private property consists of a "bundle" of rights. The state gets to decide the make up of that bundle of rights.

    No right is absolute. That's why the state can require 5 handicapped parking spaces per 100 spaces and insist they be right outside the door (even if the property owner claims to have no handicapped employees or customers). Or, more traditionally, make a property owner build and maintain a sidewalk (on which the owner never walks).
  11. feedthehogs

    feedthehogs Participating Member

    Jan 8, 2003
    The double mindedness runs rampent around here.

    Alright for me, but not for you.
  12. Dannyboy

    Dannyboy Active Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    South Jersey
    I'm astounded...that there are enough trees in OK to run a paper mill. All I ever saw there were dirt and rocks.
  13. Selfdfenz

    Selfdfenz Participating Member

    Jan 8, 2003
    Small-sky country, again

    We're in TX. If the parking lot is company property and if the company has erected fenses and/or some security controls to limit access I think your perspective makes sense. In a like manner, if the company provides me with a company car they make the rules.

    Devils' advocate time:

    How about areas where several companies share a parking area that's uncontrolled, one say were the general public has access during working hours? What about companies located where an individual might have to park on a public street during working hours? Would the company be right to fire an employee that did not park his or her vechicle in company property but nearby yet carried in their vechicle? What about if your wife drops you off and picks you up in her car every day and there is a gun in it? Say a shotgun in a visible rack in the rear window of a PU and she drives onto company property if only for 30 seconds twice a day? And last, what if I use my own car on company business and they reimburse me for it's use? Do corporate runs have sway during the time that vechicle if being used for company business?

    Large companies are very lawyered up & the bigger the outfit the more they are run by lawyers. While these companies may claim the birth of these rules is based in their desire to have a safe work I think it's much more likely there are other reasons. If someone does go postal the company may be able to mitigate damages by having such a rule in place in the past and by having a record of enforcement. I'm sure the insurance companies far from OK that sell outfits like W-hauser insurance like such rules and what they like or don't like falls to the bottom lines on the revenue sheet.

    People, on the other hand feel like it's their vechicle and they should be able to decide what they carry in it, guns included. Especially CHL holders. If not possessing a firearm in you car on company property is a condition of contuned employment, however, the employee does not have that right and they don't have their very own personal legal or HR departments to argue their side of the equation.

    Not being biased but I wonder how many of the employees fired were (a) men and (b) long time employees? If seems sometimes that part of the thinking of large companies is long time employee are just not desirable. They cost more. I wonder if that 23 yr employee got unemployment. In some states, if the employer can claim "misconduct" effectively the state may not be compelled to pay unemployment.

    My personal bottom line is if it's Co. prop, they make the rules but if it's uncontrolled public parking they have no control regarding my choice to carry a firearm in my personal vechicle. If I worked for a company that had such a rule they might still fire me if they were able to determine I had a gun in my car even if I parked on the street. As one of the newly unemployed, I'm not sure there would be a lot I could do about it unless I could afford to sue which is expensive and hold little chance of success.

    Such is the relationship between workers and corporate America.

  14. berettaman

    berettaman Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Yes these 12 people are screwed since the law didn't exist in 2002.They got what they deserved.Tough luck and move on.

    My problem is with the businesses and the new law.The State passes a law,if the company doesn't like it move.Oh that's right they're getting massive tax encintives and this just happens to be where the forests are.They're not going anywhere.They sure wouldn't complain if the legislature passed a law that every employee was required to bring a tree for processing to work everyday now would they.A company can't infringe on your civil rights and as far as I know having a gun is one of my civil rights.The legislature decided that this law is going to be a part of doing business in this state and if you disagree with then don't do business here.

    Once again,the 12 people broke the rules and should be fired.

    And to the liability issue,the company is going to be sued no matter what.If anything the new law "could" in some respects even wind up protecting the company from some litigation.Which would you rather present in court.
    "We put a sign in the parking lot that said no guns and even after we fired Mr Jones he still brought a gun in and started shooting people." or
    "Hey the government said they could have guns in their cars,and Mr Jones got his and started shooting people,it's not our fault."

    Great Sunday topic though!! :D
  15. Obiwan

    Obiwan Participating Member

    Mar 18, 2003
    My employer has a no weapons policy...but all employees are required to physically sign it...no wiggle room there.

    This company went to far IMHO...think about it for a minute.

    So...they can search your car.

    How big a step is it for them to search your house....

    Think about it...they just enact a rule that exempts gun owners from company funded medical insurance...you know...because guns in the home are so dangerous.

    Don't tell me it couldn't happen....

    I am sorry, but I think bringing in the dogs was over the top.

    If it was a case of the people carrying a gun into the building in knowing disregard for company policy, that would be different IMHO.

    And I wonder????

    Did any of the employees sign something that gave the company the "right" to physically search their cars?

    Because I would not have allowed them to "verify" the presence of a firearm in my car.

    Here is a better analogy.

    You have a non-smoker dicount on your healthcare plan.

    We would probably all agree that if you got caught smoking you should lose your coverage.

    But how many would approve of them searching your home for cigarretes?
  16. verticalgain1

    verticalgain1 New Member

    Nov 2, 2003
    Central Florida
    I'm not sure how Oklahoma law works, but here in Florida your car is an extension of your home. Whether it's parked in a company parking lot or not, the interior of your car is not their property.

    My company has a "no weapons" policy, so I asked a local circuit court judge who confirmed that they can restrict me from carrying on company property all day long, but I could have a trunk full of guns in the parking lot, refuse any number of searches, and come out on top in any legal battles they tried to start.

    I agree with the sentiment that allowing a private company to search a private vehicle is a slippery slope towards further injustice.

    CAPTAIN MIKE Active Member

    Nov 10, 2003
    Home of the Brave
    Next, Let's Ban Cars & Trucks from the Parking Lot - just in case

    If we can get them to Ban cars and trucks -- just in case -- then, that way, if a worker doesn't get a raise or doesn't get that promotion he thinks he deserves, he won't use his car or truck to run anybody down. Right??

    They should also ban the murder of co-workers and bosses. That way, every one in the plant is safer.

    I know that business managements is in a tough spot. They are on the defensive side if "something happens" that they could have avoided. On the other hand, if they go the other way the are criticized just as harshly for allowing firearms. In the case of a wrongful death lawsuit in which the company is held 'negligent' for not screening out firearms, an argument could be made on the other side that they are negligent if they don't insist that everybody is armed at work.
  18. mete

    mete Senior Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    Are they really worried about disgruntled emloyees shooting up the place ? If so they have to address the problem of disgruntled employees. Provide a good environment to work in ,see that problem employees get training or treatment .But of course it's much easier to pass a silly rule. I wonder how many disgruntled employees there are now in that company ? Today's business schools don't teach that a happy worker puts out higher productivity and better quality.
  19. Otherguy Overby

    Otherguy Overby member

    May 8, 2004
    Refrigerator box
    Rights and whatnot

    Okay for starters, companies and corporations don't have rights like people do. There are similarities for legal reasons, but they really aren't the same.

    (Please note this is a cool deal for NFA purchases)

    Throughout every situation like this, you have a group of people either in charge or agitating for the "Right to feel safe". Now, would someone please direct me to the founding document(s) that restricts governmental power so the people (or a few individuals, in this case) can "feel" safe.

    To reduce this to the ridiculous, why does some coporate executive's "right to feel safe" at work supercede an employee's "right to feel safe" on the way to and from work? Or even at work, for that matter. I "feel" safer with a gun on my belt...

    Of course, since the "right to feel safe" does not exist it's a huge leap of illogic to disarm citzens/employees so management can "feel safe".... People just don't realize how expensive education can be when it's "free" from the government.

    One more thing to think about. Isn't Weyerhauser (sp?) a publically held corporation? Wouldn't that make a stockholder an owner and then allow that person to choose whether or not to bear arms on his property?
  20. Mr. Clark

    Mr. Clark Member

    Mar 18, 2004
    Anither thread full of mindless crap from the "rights for me, but not for thee" crowd.

    There are people here fighting the good fight, but most people on this board don't want anything remotely resembling freedom.

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