Teamsters, Community Leaders and Labor Allies Send Delegation to Emerald Performance – Sun Capital Partners
Emerald Performance Unions, Community/Business Leaders, Environmental Groups Cite Dangers in Unjust Lockout
HENRY, Ill., June 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Hundreds of Emerald Performance workers, environmentalists, community and business leaders joined together outside the plant gates at Emerald Performance in support of Emerald workers who have been locked out by management since March 2011, after they protested cuts in wages and health care benefits. Emerald Performance is owned by the controversial private equity firm, Sun Capital Partners.
Inexperienced replacement workers are now running the chemical plant, where environmental health and safety was already a contentious issue. While under Sun Capital’s ownership discharges from the plant into the Illinois River have been repeatedly cited for violating the Clean Water Act. Since the lockout, highly toxic chemicals were released into the air on two occasions. A grade school, Henry’s high school, two nursing homes and fields that feed America are frighteningly close to the plant, and the cities of Henry, Chillicothe and Peoria are downstream.
At 11 am the newly-formed Emerald Unions Council, which brings together the various local unions that represent Emerald workers across the United States, held a press conference outside Village Hall. The Emerald unions had invited to the meeting Candace Wagner, President of Emerald Performance, and her principals, Mr. Rodger Krouse and Mr. Marc Leder of Sun Capital Partners to the meeting to “discuss a speedy resolution to the lockout in Henry, IL, and work-out all outstanding issues across our plants… within a framework of mutual respect.” The company failed to show.
In their joint statement the Emerald Unions Council said that “What brought us together is an unprecedented attack on the livelihood of our members. Our brothers and sisters in Henry, IL have been locked out by the Company for more than 10 weeks, after they refused to accept a 30% cut in pay, the outsourcing of the quality control lab, and the elimination of the Environmental Health and Safety Operator position, amongst other things. We are concerned that Management is seeking similarly aggressive cuts in its Kalama, WA operations, and may adopt unreasonable tactics to force its way. In 2009 Emerald workers fought off aggressive wage cuts at Emerald’s Akron, Ohio Plant.”
“We are also troubled to hear from each other’s shopfloors widespread reports of inadequate attention to health and safety, aggravated by chronic understaffing and underinvestment.” The Council representatives added, “Before being acquired, we had worked decades to assure our plants were amongst the safest, most productive with the highest quality for our customers. Since being acquired by the Sun Capital Partners private equity group, things deteriorated rapidly. We want Emerald to succeed, our livelihoods depend on it; but we believe that Sun Capital’s current approach is destroying our company and our jobs.”
The Emerald Unions Council was represented by Keith Gleason, President, Greg Wheet, Secretary-Treasurer and Brett Wiedman, Chief Steward at Emerald Performance, Henry, IL of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 627; Terry Howard, Chief Grievance Officer of the United Steel Workers of America Local 5L at Akron, OH; Frank Cyphers, President of the International Chemical Workers Union Council UFCW; Bob Moore, Representative of the International Chemical Workers Union Council, UFCW, Local 342-C at Emerald Hilton Davis; and Bob Leigh, Chief Steward of the International Chemical Workers Union Council, UFCW Local 747-C at Emerald Kalama Chemical.
During the rally that followed, a letter of support from The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers Unions (ICEM), which is based in Geneva and represents more than 20 million workers across 467 unions in 132 countries, was read out loud: “We will be advising union workers throughout the industry of Emerald Performance and Sun Capital Partners’ slash and burn philosophy of management.” Sun Capital’s subsidiary, Sun European Partners LLP, is an active investor abroad, and Emerald itself has just expanded its operations in Europe, by buying a chemicals unit from Dutch company DSM.
“Production of industrial chemicals is dangerous work that requires well rested, highly trained workers, and a commitment by management not to cut corners. What I hear from Emerald workers is very troubling. It’s time to end the lockout and for management to take safety seriously across Emerald operations,” said Emanuel Blackwell, Director of Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.
Jen Hensley, on behalf of the Sierra Club of Illinois spoke as well: “Sierra Club, and the locked out Emerald employees share a vision of an equitable future that includes good paying jobs, safe working conditions, clean air and clean water. Now more than ever labor and environmentalists share a common enemy in the corporate polluters and their political allies that seek to undermine environmental laws that keep working conditions safe and our air and water free from toxic pollution.”
Bob Hankins, Alderman of the City of Henry expressed his support to the locked-out workers and their families and made the following statement: Speaking of the lockout he said: “I am concerned with the safety of the community. Do they have fully qualified people operating those machines?”
A delegation of worker, community, and environmental representatives then approached the gates to present an Appeal for Justice to management at the Emerald Henry, IL plant gates during the community rally, undersigned by eminent leaders in the community, demanding that “Sun Capital stop the lockout and re-open negotiations to achieve adequate investment in equipment and personnel, in order to ensure a safe and effective operation of Henry’s plant.”
Who is Sun Capital
Sun Capital Partners formed Emerald Performance Materials in May of 2006 after acquiring the business from Lubrizol and has grown the business through additional acquisitions.
Sun Capital raises its money from big investors such as the Ford Foundation Endowment Fund, Goldman Sachs Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Endowment, New Mexico Public Employees’ Retirement Association, New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, Oklahoma Police Pension & Retirement System, State Universities Retirement System of Illinois, the Notre Dame Endowment, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Endowment, the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO) and Yale University Endowments.
Emerald Performance Materials makes additives, dyes, fine chemicals, silicones, and specialty polymers used in tires, automobiles, aerospace, food, beverages, cosmetics, toothpaste, household products, paint, sports gear and other applications.
Key Emerald customers include Exxon, Goodyear Tire Company, Bridgestone-Firestone Tire Company, Cooper Tire Company, Titan Tire Company, Michelin Tire Company, Monsanto, R.T. Vanderbilt.
SOURCE Teamsters Local 627