USW - United Steelworkers

01/14/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/14/2020 11:26

From the USW Chemical Chair: Challenges and Opportunities Abound in the New Year

Jan 14, 2020

2019 was a year of change for our union. In addition to the retirements and promotions within the USW executive board, our chemical sector leadership changed. International Vice President at Large Carol Landry, who oversaw our chemical sector, retired last July, and I now oversee this industry.

Until July 15, 2019, I was the director of District 4. I had many chemical plants in my district, and helped Carol organize the Districts 4 and 10 chemical sector conference in Atlantic City, N.J., several years ago. I serviced chemical locals as well when I was a staff representative, so, I understand the challenges and opportunities that we have in this industry.

One of those opportunities is to organize the vast number of non-represented chemical workers. In mid-November, 44 workers from Cray Valley in Beaumont, Texas, voted to join Local 13-243. Cray Valley is a subsidiary of Total Petrochemicals. This is a sister plant to the Total Refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Congratulations to everyone who supported the organizing campaign and to our new brothers and sisters!

One of our challenges is to increase the coordination of our bargaining within our chemical company councils. We need to be strategic in our thinking and start establishing common bargaining goals.

One council that could take this approach is the USW BASF council. The BASF locals in Middle Georgia are currently in negotiations, and are sticking together, as their members resoundingly rejected the company's last, best and final offer. The biggest area of disagreement concerns the entry level wage rate and the jobs that the company wants in this category. Other issues in dispute are the 401k contributions in the defined contribution plan and the time period for long-term disability benefits. Both parties agreed to meet again on Jan. 16. We will keep everyone informed in case a solidarity action is needed.

Congratulations to Bill Powers of Local 90 in Knoxville for winning a 2019 Jefferson award for his community service work. Bill works at the Dow Chemical plant, and as chair of Local 90, he has led his local to participate in projects that improve the Knoxville community. He has helped raise more than $300,000 in member donations for the United Way of Greater Knoxville over the past several years. He also took the lead on two Habitat for Humanity homes, and has personally donated more than $10,000 to the United Way of Greater Knoxville. In addition, he is a longtime volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy Center. Way to go Bill and Local 90! Our members do great work in the community, and through their efforts, they show the value of being a union member.

With repeated communication between our chemical locals, whether or not they are engaged in bargaining, we can form a tight-knit chemical sector. This communication is the basis for coordinated bargaining, and helps chemical locals learn from one another on how to resolve similar issues. Together, we can make this communication happen in 2020.

John Shinn
USW International Secretary-Treasurer/Chair of the USW chemical sector
[email protected]