DuPont workers unite worldwide

A global network of trade unions representing workers at DuPont plants has revealed a pattern of poor safety, health and environmental conditions at the chemical giant’s facilities.

The network includes unions in the U.S., Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Brazil and Mexico. It was established under the auspices of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Unions (ICEM).

The USW, which coordinates the network, is now offering a web site, www.Dupont Photos show deplorable conditions in the neighborhood surrounding DuPont’s Guarulhos plant, located near São Paolo, Brazil. Three workers there were injured in an Oct. 5 explosion. Other photos document numerous safety hazards and dirty conditions inside the company’s Niagara Falls, N.Y., plant where there have been three serious incidents in the last two years. Brazilian workers were shocked to see the unsafe conditions in the Niagara Falls plant, the USW reports. The web site includes sections in Portuguese.

The USW reports it is now working to extend the global DuPont union network to include unions from other countries in Latin America.

Goodyear workers hold the line

Worker correspondent Bill Carothers of Burlington, N.C, sent in the photo below of the Goodyear rubber workers’ picket line in Danville, Va. It was early in the morning and it had been raining when Bill joined the picket on Oct. 15. “They had a whole stockpile of wood and said they were planning to be out a while,” Bill reported.

Later, in Pittsburgh, the union, the United Steelworkers, denounced the company’s Oct. 30 announcement that it is closing the Goodyear plant in Tyler, Texas, wiping out 1,100 jobs.

The plant, which opened in 1962, has produced about 25,000 passenger and light truck tires per day, and officials in the city about 100 miles east of Dallas have offered Goodyear a $12 million incentive package to try to get the tire maker, one of the area’s largest employers, to stay, The Associated Press reported.

The Steelworkers said the announcement to close the plant was a slap in the face, particularly because the union took pay cuts, job losses and other concessions in 2003 to help get the company back on track financially.

The issue of plant closings is a key factor in month-old strike, which involves 15,000 workers at 16 plants in the U.S and Canada.

Labor peace demo

A major antiwar demonstration has been called by U.S. Labor Against the War in conjunction with Cleveland, Ohio-based North Shore Federation of Labor.

On Dec. 2, community, peace and social justice groups from throughout the region will come together with organized labor for a rally in front of the federal building in downtown Cleveland to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and a reprioritization of federal spending to serve peace and meet human needs at home and abroad. “The labor movement, in its overwhelming majority, has turned against the Iraq war,” said Bob Muehlenkamp, USLAW co-convener.

Use ’em up and spit ’em out

A report by Wal-Mart Watch documents how the retail giant is methodically pushing out older and less healthy workers in order to allow it to cut spending on employee benefits.

An internal Wal-Mart memo published by The New York Times just one year ago drew wide criticism for the company’s inhumane plans to increase its profits. Nevertheless, the Wal-Mart Watch report reveals the chain is moving ahead aggressively to implement the new policies.

The changes include modifications to health care plans to penalize those who actually use benefits; wage caps that discourage long term employment; and arbitrary and unpredictable scheduling, described as “family unfriendly.” The 2005 memo also suggested “dissuading unhealthy people” from coming to work at Wal-Mart “by designing all jobs to include some physical activity,” such as requiring cashiers to go outside and round up carts. Employees in some stores report that older workers who had been accustomed to having stools to sit and rest on came to work to find them removed one day.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (