Dow DuPont Council Pledges Solidarity in Fight to Preserve Retirement Security

Members of the Dow DuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) agreed to work together to preserve retirement security for union workers in response to Dow’s plan to freeze pensions and force workers into defined contribution plans.

The plan of action, which includes educating members and holding joint solidarity events, came following a breakout session and several discussions at the conclusion of a four-day council meeting held in late October with leaders of 20 unions representing thousands of workers at Dow, DuPont and their spinoff companies, Corteva and International Flavors & Fragrances. 

Pictured: Dow DuPont North American Labor Council local union leaders at the Oct. 25-28 meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

The DNALC members convened virtually and in person Oct. 25-28 in San Antonio, Texas, to share information, discuss common issues, plan strategy and pledge solidarity.

“The workers at these companies continue to experience many challenges following the split of DowDuPont and the difficulties created by the ongoing pandemic,” said Kent Holsing, DNALC chair and president of USW Local 12075 in Midland, Mich.

During the pandemic, companies classified more than 95 percent of USW workers as essential, said John Shinn, USW International Secretary-Treasurer and head of the union’s chemical sector. He said the labor movement saved many lives because it bargained for safer working conditions and pushed OSHA for Covid-19 safety rules. 

Some of the challenges DNALC members discussed included short staffing, excessive overtime and increased worker fatigue, lack of proper training, and safety in the workplace and surrounding community.

Of particular concern was Dow’s plan to adversely affect employees’ retirement security by freezing defined benefit pensions and throwing workers into a defined contribution plan that is subject to the ups and downs of the stock market and does not guarantee employees a set amount of retirement money.

The Dow locals convened in a breakout session to discuss how this impacted each of their sites and on the last day of the meeting, the council agreed on a plan to tackle this issue system-wide.

Each DNALC local shared collective bargaining data, identified mutual obstacles, determined potential solutions, and discussed current and upcoming negotiations, grievances and arbitrations, labor relations with local management and organizing.

The council also heard from its international union partners. Tom Grinter, IndustriALL director of Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, Pulp and Paper, and Rubber Industries, gave a presentation on the global supply chain and how unions must represent workers at each link of the chain.

“This council is one of the best examples of international solidarity,” Grinter said.

Evidence of this international solidarity came from Mauricio Brizuela, general secretary of the Argentinian union SOEPU. He thanked the council for its support in preventing Dow from shutting down its Argentinian plant. District 13 Director Ruben Garza also spoke about the impact international solidarity had on bringing Local 13-1 members back to work after Dow locked them out in 2019 for more than five months.

The four-day council meeting also featured presentations on digitization in manufacturing, the financial health of Dow, Dupont and their split-off companies, and worker fatigue. It ended with a building power presentation and discussion of the council’s future.

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