DuPont Yerkes Plant Workers Win Job Security and Greater Voice on the Job

Local 6992 members at DuPont’s Yerkes plant in Tonawanda, N.Y., ratified a four-year agreement on Sept. 22, 2017 that contains a first-ever successorship clause, contract language to create a joint health and safety committee, and a union security clause—a first for DuPont. The contract covers 335 workers.

“The membership voted very convincingly to accept the agreement – they liked what we were able to accomplish together to get this contract and avoid a strike,” said Local 6992 President Gary Guralny.

He said it was important for the membership to gain successorship language—this protects workers’ jobs and contract when a facility is sold—because of the DowDuPont merger. He said the plan for the site is for it to be spun off into a new company within the next year and a half. Local media reported the site will join the specialty products company when DowDuPont splits up its businesses.

“Our people have the assurance now that all terms of the contract will be protected for four years no matter who is in control of the site businesses,” Guralny said.

He said the local union had proposed a joint health and safety committee every contract negotiation since 1999. For the past several years, USW has sponsored a shareholders resolution that would compel the company to improve its disclosure of workplace health and safety incidents (See Chemical Solutions Issue #5 and #8). 

“It seems that pressure on the corporate board coordinated with the efforts of the workers at the plants helped us have a positive impact. We finally have a meaningful voice in site safety and a definite structure for the joint committee to meet,” he said.

The agreement also contains a union security clause that requires all future employees hired to join the union. Guralny said it is the first time, to his knowledge, a DuPont site obtained such contract language.

Retroactive Wage Increases

The local union negotiated a three percent signing bonus and a 1.5 percent wage increase each year, with the wage increase retroactive to June 18, 2017.

Wage rates for current employees in job classes 1-3 and 4-5 will be protected. Future new employees in job classes 1-3 will receive a new wage rate.

Up to 50 employees will receive a severance package. Maintenance workers who remain at the plant along with current apprentices are protected from layoff or being forced out of the maintenance department.

To protect members from their work being contracted out, the new agreement contains language that gives the union the right to challenge management before contracting out jobs. This process includes expedited arbitration.

Also, five positions were returned to the bargaining unit that management had been allowed to contract out under the previous agreement.

Tough Negotiations

The local union engaged in over three months of contentious talks with DuPont’s lead contract negotiator and some company negotiating committee members who acted negatively toward the union. Their actions became so derogatory that DuPont had to fire three out of the five company negotiators and replace them with a new contract committee that included outside legal counsel.

“After that happened, negotiations moved along in a more purposeful direction and compromise was reached on many sticking points. This enabled us to bring back a package that the negotiating committee could recommend to the membership,” Guralny said.

Last Contract

This will be Guralny’s last contract negotiations because he plans to retire on Dec. 31, 2017. He credited the membership’s solidarity in remaining strong to get a fair agreement.

“I am proud of how the members of our local held together during these tough negotiations. Their solidarity is a key reason we got this contract,” he said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to represent our members over the many years I have served as their local union president.”

PHOTO

Local union 6992 members participated in an informational picket during the contentious part of negotiations with DuPont before it terminated three company negotiators whose actions had become a roadblock to getting a fair agreement. The company replaced them with a new bargaining team that included outside legal counsel. Soon after, both sides settled the sticking points and agreed to a new contract.

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