The International Chemical Workers Union Council is talking to Kingsport Eastman employees about organizing at the facility.
According to ICWUC organizer Lance Heasley, the organization is in the early stages.
“The Eastman plant in Kingsport is very large, very spread out but the support has been overwhelming,” Heasley told News Channel 11. “We seem to get more support every time we talk to them (the employees).”
Heasley said the size of the Eastman workforce means the process may go slower than other organizations. The ICWUC leaders want to make sure there’s enough of the workforce wanting a union before organizing an election to form and to select leaders.
“The National Labor Relations Board requires 30% of employees to sign authorization cards for the election. We go beyond that, trying to get 60% of the workforce to sign.”
The election results in a ICWUC chapter forming, they could then begin organizing contract negotiations and other activities.
Heasley told News Channel 11 that right now, the goal is to educate employees about their rights and what protections belonging to a union could provide.
“We are dealing with 100 years of fear being instilled in the workforce at Eastman about unions,” Heasley said.
No mass meetings of employees have been organized. The union organizers are creating committees and trying to make sure there are representatives from each area of the plant for communication purposes.
The ICWUC is also using its website to spread information about the organization. Heasley said the number of visits to the Eastman specific pages on the website grows each day.
“It’s important people can do this from their own homes, Heasley said. “They don’t have to worry about the company looking out the window and seeing someone taking a flyer.”
News Channel 11 has reached out to Eastman for comment. Late Friday morning Eastman officials sent the following statement:
“Like most global companies our size we, on occasion, have individuals who may reach out to seek information from a union or we have union organizers come in from out of town to host meetings with our team members to gauge their interest. While we certainly understand employees have the right to self-organize, they also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities. We don’t believe a union is in the best interest of our Kingsport team members, and here’s why:
- We feel like we have an effective direct relationship with our employees where issues are discussed and resolved by working together – without the interference from an outside third-party. This form of teamwork has been a hallmark of Eastman Kingsport for nearly 100 years, and one that we strongly desire to preserve and enhance for our team members.
- We believe, under union restrictions, we’d lose the flexibility to run our Kingsport manufacturing operations most efficiently, by being limited in when and how we could position team members to best support changing business needs. We also believe our team members would lose the flexibility to expand their skills and gain different work experiences with these types of union restrictions.
- We’ve provided a long history of job stability to our Kingsport manufacturing operations team members – without a union; and our records indicate that team members in that manufacturing operations role group have never been impacted by company-wide workforce reductions.
- We also know that we already offer market competitive compensation and benefits to our manufacturing team members here in Kingsport, and that nothing is guaranteed with a union. EVERYTHING — including base pay, overtime, and all benefits — is subject to negotiation. No one, including the union – can guarantee that our team members will receive higher pay and better benefits as a result of union representation. There are no union pay scales or union benefits that automatically go into effect as a result of unionization.
- For nearly 100 years here in Kingsport, Eastman team members have been improving the quality of life in a material way for consumers around the world through the innovative products they make – together – without a union.”