New Years Message for Chemical Workers from USW Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn

Dear Union Sisters and Brothers,

Working through the pandemic has been tough, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the outstanding work you and your locals have done over the last two years in keeping our members safe, getting through negotiations for new collective bargaining agreements, and continuing the union’s work representing our members.

If there is a silver lining to this ongoing crisis, it is how clearly it demonstrated the essential nature of our members’ jobs. Our work is important and, without you, your chemical plants could not run.

Our members’ health and safety continue to be our union’s number one concern. Not long after the pandemic started, District 9 Director Daniel Flippo approached BASF to successfully negotiate a Covid-19 protocol, which we ultimately used as a template in negotiating Covid-19 health and safety protections for the rest of the chemical sector.

Negotiating contracts in a time of social distancing was a challenge as well. Nevertheless, locals adapted and successfully negotiated fair contracts.

Local 11-418 at 3M’s Cottage Grove, Minn., complex found it was better to negotiate online than rent a hotel meeting room. The local faced tough negotiations with 3M but was able to succeed by engaging in Building Power training from the USW’s Strategic Campaigns department, holding outdoor rallies and pickets, and keeping members informed via text message.

Virtual bargaining also marked Local 13833’s negotiations with 3M at its Tonawanda, N.Y., sponge plant. Members pressured management on the shop floor by placing signs on their machines that said they needed a contract.

The Evonik Calvert City, Ky., units communicated with Local 7237-05 at the company’s Weston, Mich., facility, which negotiated several weeks prior to Calvert City bargaining. This enabled the Kentucky workers to better anticipate and respond to Evonik’s demands.

A positive change in management personnel at some locations led to cordial negotiations that wrapped up in three days. This happened with Local 220’s unit at Solvay’s Kalamazoo, Mich., plant and Local 4-574 at 3M’s Tilton, N.H., facility.

When Dow Chemical announced its pension changes, the Dow DuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) met virtually to discuss the impact on their locals. We also used Zoom and email to keep communication and solidarity flowing for the Evonik, Solvay and BASF virtual council meetings. For the first time, we held a virtual meeting for the entire chemical sector, which introduced members to the resources available within the International.

At the end of October, the DNALC conducted a hybrid meeting that was both virtual and in-person with adherence to mask wearing.

These past two years, our union’s chemical workers showed they are resilient, and despite the nationwide surge of the omicron variant, I am confident we can continue strengthening the solidarity within our sector. Stay safe and, together, we can face the challenges of this new year!

In Solidarity,

John Shinn
Head of the USW chemical sector and International Secretary-Treasurer

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