From an airplane flying above the fierce terrain of Minnesota's Mesabi Iron Range, two friends emptied a box that contained [Patricia] Kosmach's ashes. Her remains drifted down over the Eveleth Taconite Mine and came to rest on the floor of the open-pit excavation where she had worked for 13 years, mixing indistinguishably with the iron ore dust.
Kosmach and [Lois] Jenson had joined 19 other women in bringing a precedent-setting case, which legally established that the atmosphere of sexual harassment inside a company can be so pervasive and hostile that employees, as a class, can sue for relief. The class-action decision set a legal framework for others, including the current federal suit involving hundreds of women auto workers at Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc. in Normal, Ill.
The Eveleth case, only now winding down after more than 12 years in Minnesota state and federal courts, documents violent and vulgar sexual harassment in a traditionally male workplace -- and the failure of management and the union to stop such conduct. The women miners testified they were groped, grabbed, pressured for sex, threatened with rape, beaten, stalked and subjected to coarse sexual language and graffiti. One young boy, now in his early twenties, testified to watching his mother, Shirley Burton, pack her lunch box for work each day: knife, Mace, rope to tie shut the door to her work area, and food.
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