·  by Kent Holsing, chair of the DowDuPont North American Labor Council

DowDuPont North American Labor Council Examines Upcoming Changes in Split-Up of Merged Company

The DowDuPont merger and pending spinoff of several business segments overshadowed the annual DowDuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) meeting on Sept. 25-28 in Elizabethtown, Ky.

International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) Local 970 from the Dow Corning plant in Elizabethtown hosted 39 delegates from 13 Dow Chemical and DuPont locations, representing over 4,000 members from six U.S. unions and three global unions.

Besides the merger and spinoff discussions, delegates focused on global outreach and compared site issues.

To date, the merger has not caused any job losses at any of the manufacturing locations, and the collective bargaining agreements and work remain status quo. However, changes are expected because Ed Breen, chief executive officer of DowDuPont, publicly stated there will be expected plant closings, layoffs and other cost-cutting moves to save $3 billion in “synergies.”

Planned Spinoffs

The Dow Chemical and DuPont merger closed Aug. 1, 2017 with the expectation the merged organization would split into three publicly traded companies in 2018.  However, so-called Wall Street “activist investors” (corporate raiders) are heavily pressuring the merged corporation to split into six different companies so that shareholder value can be maximized to the tune of $20 billion.

DowDuPont is partially complying with Wall Street’s request by moving $8 billion of businesses from its Material Sciences division to its Specialty Products division. This move lines up the possibility for future divestments.

With these spin offs most locations will operate as either Dow or DuPont. Some sites, such as the Midland, Mich., facility, will be split into three separate companies within the fence line. This changes the Midland site from being one unit with one contract into three units with three contracts.

DowDuPont’s Material Sciences group will be the Dow part headquartered in Midland. The Agriculture Sciences and Specialty Products divisions will be the DuPont part headquartered in Wilmington, Del.

DowDuPont is conducting its third-quarter investors call this month, and it is anticipated that the company will give further details of  which businesses will be spun off,  how employees will be affected, and what “synergies” (aka the elimination of jobs and cost cutting) will result.

Council Action

This situation remains fluid, but the DNALC is committed to keep up with the changes as they happen. The full impact on union members may not be fully realized until the split into three companies.

Experience has shown that the DNALC network model is crucial to be successful in dealing with the proposed actions of the merged corporations. USW International Vice President Carol Landry encouraged the locals within the council to continue working with each other, to strengthen the network, and to reach out to other union groups within the chemical industry.

The upcoming changes will not just impact union members in North America. Thousands of other direct and indirect employees and their families will be affected across the globe. However, they do not have a voice to represent their interests and concerns. Therefore, the DNALC delegates unanimously agreed that DowDuPont has a responsibility to take the concerns and interests of their employees into consideration when decisions are made.

The council is working with the USW to create a global online petition to bring awareness of DowDuPont’s actions and that the company must not put its employees, families and the communities surrounding its sites at a disadvantage. Support for this petition will be organized at a grassroots level and will be released soon.

Building Solidarity

Landry also encouraged the DNALC to pursue global solidarity, and she spoke on the USW’s plans for the chemical sector.

The council’s annual meeting drew attendance from other international unions impacted by the DowDuPont merger. Delegates came from Argentina, the UK and Germany.  Two Brazilian unions, unable to attend, submitted a report.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan presented a comprehensive summary of the current status of the global chemical industry via Skype.

Each attending Dow Chemical and DuPont local gave a report, and all the delegates discussed the commonalities and differences between each Dow and DuPont site.

The following Dow Chemical sites were represented at the meeting: Midland, Mich.; Freeport, Texas City and Deer Park, Texas; Bristol, Pa.; Louisville, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn.

Former Dow Corning locations were represented from Midland, Mich., and Elizabethtown, Ky.

DuPont locations were represented: Buffalo (Yerkes), N.Y.; Richmond (Spruance), Va.; Chambers Works, N.J., and La Porte, Texas.

PHOTO

2017 DowDuPont North American Labor Council conference.

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