By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The state got Water Gremlin’s attention when it shut down the factory Monday morning.

Now, Water Gremlin employees say they want the governor’s attention to get him to work with the company to address concerns about lead contamination so they can go back to work.

Several dozen people voiced their concerns over the shutdown. Xiong Vue says many of the people chanting near the steps of the State Capital are long-term employees of Water Gremlin.

“We came here together as a group because we’ve been shut down. We’re out of work and who knows how long this thing is going to last and we want to go back to work,” Vue said.

Many of the employees have worked for more than 20 years at the factory.

“We work with lead, make no mistake about it. But we have an annual blood draw for lead count and none of these employees have levels higher than OSHA standards,” Vue said.

The employees say they are not sick and that they need their jobs to raise their families. Their voices reached the Governor’s office.

Inside, one by one, the employees expressed how safe they felt.

“None of us here have been poisoned by lead,” one employee said.

Commission of Labor and Industry Nancy Leppink was on hand to listen. But she made clear that the decision to shut down the factory was done for their safety.

“To the extent that Water Gremlin has said that this is the result of employee misconduct when we were there on Saturday there were no supervisors staff that we were able to observe, so if you want employees to follow the rules you need to make sure they are following the rules,” Leppink said.

Commissioner Leppink says Water Gremlin must address the real issues behind it being shut down.

“There is a language barrier here, there is a cultural barrier here, they are employing a large number of temporary employees who circulate into their workplace. So then your vigilance in training has to be here, here is not okay,” Leppink said.

Department of Employment and Economic Development and Ramsey Workforce employees were on hand to offer the displaced workers resources.

They were also told about free lead testing sites so they can be sure their families are not at risk of health issues.

Water Gremlin employees say that they hope the company works with the state to address their concerns so they can get back to work.

Reg Chapman

Comments