DowDuPont North American Labor Council Addresses Pandemic’s Impact on Workers, Global Economy

The Covid-19 pandemic prevented the DowDuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) from meeting in person, but it did not stop 40 council members from participating in a half-day virtual session in mid-September to discuss the disease’s impact on workers and the world economy.

“We can’t let the pandemic get in the way of our communications and global solidarity,” said John Shinn, head of the USW’s chemical sector.

He discussed how the USW Health, Safety and Environment Department established a Covid-19 protocol for its chemical and pharmaceutical employers. “The staff and local union leadership worked diligently with the employers to get protections in place for our members,” he said.

Kemal Özken, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, spoke about Covid-19’s impact on workers’ health and safety and on human life.

“We demand that Covid-19 be recognized as an occupational disease for those workers infected in workplaces,” he said.

Tom Grinter, IndustriALL director of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper and rubber industries, emphasized that council members ensure their plant managers are respecting Dow and DuPont’s commitment on local union involvement in safety management protocols.

“It’s a difficult time, but we’re standing together,” Grinter said.

Covid-19 protocols

DNALC Chair Kent Holsing, who is also president of USW Local 12075, said the Dow locals participating in the virtual meeting felt the company handled the Covid-19 pandemic well overall in terms of health and safety protocols and pay for workers who have to quarantine or stay at home because of testing positive for coronavirus or having pre-existing conditions that make getting the virus deadly.

Shinn said there were some rolling layoffs of one to three weeks in length, but most workers did not lose pay during that period.

Some of the employers paid additional hourly pay (for a period of time) or a one-time bonus, he said.

Impact on world economy

Another top concern was how Dow and Dupont would weather the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Özken described how the pandemic shrunk economic activity worldwide and caused a 40 percent decrease in direct investment. He said companies are discussing how the disease disrupted supply chains of needed products.

Shinn expressed concern that companies would see the pandemic as an opportunity to consolidate production lines and run leaner. Dow announced it would cut its worldwide workforce by 6 percent because of the pandemic, but has not said where those cuts will occur.

Despite this announcement, Grinter noted that cash-rich companies like Dow and Dupont are well positioned to survive the pandemic.

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