USW Chemical Councils Discuss Bargaining, Local Issues on Virtual Calls

USW’s 3M, Evonik and Solvay councils met virtually this past month to discuss bargaining, negotiation strategies and report on production activity and local union issues.

All three councils met via Zoom: The 3M council met Dec. 15; the Evonik council met Jan. 6, and the Solvay council met Jan. 7.

Locals in each council relayed the following information: membership size, contract expiration, production, Covid-19 impact, the type of health and safety program used at their plant, ways the local communicates with its members and challenges they anticipate in upcoming bargaining.

“Our union is in good shape,” said USW International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn, who leads the union’s chemical sector. “Most of the USW membership has been deemed essential and has worked throughout the pandemic. This is especially true in the chemical sector.”

3M council virtual meeting

Much discussion during the 3M Council virtual meeting focused on addressing a new Covid-19 memorandum of understanding. The existing Covid-19 protocol expired Dec. 1, 2020. 3M proposed a one-year extension with disciplinary procedures added in and no extension of the pandemic time bank. The USW sent a counter-proposal to corporate management on Jan. 8 on behalf of all the 3M locals.

Negotiations continue with 3M at its Cottage Grove, Minn., (Local 418) and Tonawanda, N.Y., (Local 13833) sites.  

Local 418 started negotiating a new contract on June 8, 2020. As of Dec. 16, the local had 32 bargaining session that lasted eight hours each. The company proposed 104 non-economic proposals, and the local whittled it down to 17 items. It took 12 full days of bargaining for the local to get the company to move on one non-economic proposal.

Local 13833 is experiencing similar company behavior at the bargaining table. It began negotiations in October 2019, and the contract expired Dec. 7, 2019. 3M proposed 70 non-economic items, and there have been at least 27 bargaining sessions on non-economic issues.

Both locals are operating under contract extensions and filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board regarding negotiations.

Evonik council virtual meeting

Local 7237-05 at Evonik’s Weston, Mich., site will begin contract negotiations on Jan. 11 for 25 bargaining unit members. The contract expires Feb. 1.

Both of the two contracts at Evonik’s Calvert City, Ky., site are up in February and March respectively. Local 727’s contract expires Feb. 14, and Local 727-01’s agreement expires March 1. The two units will meet separately with the company in February.

Solvay council virtual meeting

Local 220 at Solvay’s Kalamazoo, Mich., site, which represents eight workers, will begin negotiations the first week of February. Its contract expires Feb. 26, 2021.

Local 765-1, which represents some 26 workers, continues to negotiate a new agreement at Solvay’s Chicago Heights, Ill., plant. The contract expired Nov. 17, 2019. Negotiations broke off in February 2020 because of the pandemic, and resumed bargaining the week of Oct. 12, 2020.

The local is working to set up new bargaining dates.

Members of Local 499 at Solvay’s Willow Island plant in St. Mary’s, W.Va., ratified a new three-year agreement in November that included wage increases and an additional sixth week of vacation for long-term employees. The local represents 132 workers.

Jeff Hill, a Local 14200 member who represents North America on the Solvay Global Forum (SGF), reported on the SGF’s Dec. 15 quarterly video call.

Solvay CEO Ilham Kadri joined the call for an hour, and the group discussed the Solvay Care’s maternity and paternity leave, and signed a new agreement increasing maternity leave from 12 weeks to 16 and increasing paternity leave from 2 weeks to 16.

The group discussion focused on Solvay’s Global Performance Share Program as well. Hill said that the company would like to streamline the hourly and management portions of the share program so they have similar goals and targets.

There also was talk concerning the opportunity of employees to obtain shares of the company’s stock.  Hill said that Solvay is considering allowing employees to choose stock options or cash for its annual share program this year in April.

Discussion also centered on proper distribution of the annual share program money. Hill said the SGF is looking for a better calculation for distribution of the share program money so that it is more evenly distributed globally to all Solvay’s locations.

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