CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A painful chapter in local labor history came back to mind Wednesday when news spread that billionaire "King of Commodities" Marc Rich had died.
According to wire reports, Rich died of a stroke at a Swiss hospital Wednesday morning. He was 78 years old.
Many people remember Rich, who created Glencore global commodities empire, as the fugitive financier pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001 during the final hours of his term.
But in Ravenswood, he's known for his behind-the-scenes role in the "Battle of Fort RAC."
That's how United Steelworkers members refer to the bitter 20-month lockout of 1,700 union workers by the Ravenswood Aluminum Corp. that occurred from the fall of 1990 through the summer of 1992.
Rich, through his international companies, had an ownership stake in RAC, as it was known. The company was created after Kaiser Aluminum sold its stake in the Ravenswood plant in 1989.
By the time RAC was created, Rich had already landed himself on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Rather than face prosecution on a 1983 indictment on charges of tax evasion and illegal arms dealings with Iran - an indictment secured by former U.S. Attorney and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani - Rich opted to live in exile in Switzerland after that country's government denied a U.S. extradition request.
When RAC decided to lock out its 1,700 union workers in October 1990, the United Steelworkers union accused Rich of pulling the strings.
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