It Gets Worse: Tudor Dixon’s “Dirty,” “Nasty” Steel Foundry Maintained an Unsafe Work Environment That Resulted in Serious Worker Injuries

“Nobody wanted to work there because it was so friggin’ dangerous.” – former Michigan Steel human resources employee

DeVos sellout Tudor Dixon has frequently pointed to her experience leading sales and human resources at Michigan Steel for years before the company laid off its entire 300-employee workforce and was completely liquidated by 2013. In her own accounts on the campaign trail, Dixon established herself as a company executive with a hand in “every aspect” of the Michigan Steel’s day-to-day operations. 

Despite Dixon’s claims that she ensured safety was a priority, recent reporting from Bridge Michigan details how the foundry regularly cut corners under her leadership, creating a “friggin’ dangerous” workplace environment that resulted in serious injuries for employees as they handled heavy equipment and molten metals. 

During Dixon’s tenure, Michigan Steel developed a pattern of workplace injuries so extensive the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied tens of thousands in fines against the foundry for repeated “regulatory violations.”

The complete disregard for safety wasn’t just limited to Dixon’s employees. The greater Muskegon community suffered from “odors emanating from” Michigan Steel, in addition to “dust and other particulate matter” contaminating the air as it rained down on their homes, property, and waterways. Rather than address the emissions issues and stop violating state air quality standards, Dixon’s foundry implemented inadequate stopgaps using garden hoses and sprinklers

See excerpts below from Bridge Michigan on Dixon’s time leading a business described by the owner of the business next door as so “dirty” and “nasty” that “there were portions where you would swear it was a dirt floor,” and read the full report here.

Bridge Michigan: Tudor Dixon Touts Work at Michigan Steel. Foundry Struggled to Pay Bills.

By Jonathan Oosting

[Tudor] Dixon, the Republican nominee for governor, has touted her seven years as an executive at Michigan Steel Inc. as evidence she’s prepared for “tough battles” as governor. She has distanced herself, though, from the eventual collapse of her father’s firm, which occurred three years after she left the company upon becoming pregnant with her first child.

But court records reviewed by Bridge Michigan indicate the Muskegon foundry struggled with cash flow while Dixon worked there, well before Michigan Steel laid off its entire workforce — which had topped at near 300 employees — and liquidated the company her dad purchased in 2002.

More than two dozen suppliers sued Michigan Steel during Dixon’s tenure. The non-union company also generated several safety violation citations, worker injuries and emissions complaints from neighbors. […]

Dixon’s campaign declined an interview request about her tenure at the steel foundry. In an email, a spokesperson said Dixon was “not involved in or aware of any of the lawsuits” and described her role in the company in more limited terms than she has in the past. […]

Dixon worked in sales and later human resources but told Bridge Michigan earlier this summer she eventually helped run “every aspect” of the business. […]

She also promoted her leadership at the foundry following her victory in the Republican primary in August, citing the difficulty of “running and growing” the company as a woman. 

According to Dixon’s campaign, Dixon took over Human Resources during her final six months at Michigan Steel. By that point, the sales team, customer service team and HR reported to her, Olson said. […]

Dixon has touted the foundry’s sterling workplace safety record, arguing businesses know best as she promised to cut government regulations and attacked Whitmer over pandemic response orders the Democratic governor announced as an effort to protect public health. 

“I come from the foundry business” and “we started every meeting with a safety meeting,” Dixon said in a July interview with conservative activist group Stand Up Michigan. 

“Every company knows to succeed, you have to keep your customers and your employees safe,” Dixon added, arguing Whitmer has “weaponized” state regulators against businesses.

But public records and news reports indicate there were several workplace injuries in her family’s aging Michigan Steel foundry, which was also fined more than $28,000 for regulatory violations by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration between 2004 and 2008.

During that span, one Michigan Steel worker was reportedly hospitalized after getting his arm caught in a “core-making machine,” another was hospitalized after a furnace explosion led to burns on his hands, face and arms and a third employee suffered third-degree burns while moving molten metal, according to reports in the Muskegon Chronicle. 

“Nobody wanted to work there because it was so friggin’ dangerous.” said a former human resources employee who asked not to be identified because the employee had signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of a severance package. […]

Environmental inspection records show local residents occasionally complained of odors emanating from the Michigan Steel foundry, along with “fall down” as dust and other particulate matter rained down on their homes, cars or boats docked on Muskegon Lake. The state cited the firm for air quality violations on multiple occasions prior to 2009, when Dixon left. 

In the foundry’s final year of operation, one employee (whose name was redacted from state records) alleged dust control equipment failed nearly two years prior but was never replaced, creating emissions “so strong” the company put garden hoses and sprinklers on top of a large “baghouse” filter to tamp down the dust. […]

“The industry was struggling” when Dixon’s father bought the foundry out of bankruptcy, said Dennis Kirksey, a Muskegon business and environmental leader who operated out of the building next door for three decades. 

The foundry was so old “there were portions where you would swear it was a dirt floor,” Kirskey said, noting the sands that coated the floor were actually “shake out operations” from casting molds.

“It was dirty,” he said. “It was nasty.”

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