MIDLAND, MI — A new five-year contract between Dow and United Steelworkers Local 12934 protects about 450 bargained-for jobs in the Midland silicones division from being subcontracted out, according to a union official.
The company and the union, which had 692 members at the time of the vote Wednesday, April 10, reached the agreement after a series of negotiations, said Local President Mike Orvosh.
“This will be the first contract that we’ve had with them since they bought out Dow Corning a couple years ago,” Orvosh said Thursday, April 11.
“We already had one attempt at this. The company had given a last, best and final offer and our membership had rejected it," he said.
Orvosh said the membership rejected Dow’s first offer because the union felt it did not protect bargained-for jobs from being subcontracted out and about 270 workers faced potential pay cuts of $3 to $11 per hour.
“We went back to the table and we were able to ensure an additional 220 jobs would be protected union positions (for a total of about 450),” Orvosh said.
Orvosh said the union bargained to increase the rate of 20 jobs between $7 to $9 dollars per hour from what Dow first proposed and an additional 40 jobs or so were raised $3 to 4 dollars per hour from what Dow proposed.
About 120 maintenance jobs currently held by union members are not protected union jobs.
Orvosh said some workers will receive raises but more will see their rates frozen for the next four years before facing potential pay cuts.
“The advantage of that, the hope is, in that four years, you’re able to advance to a higher paying job, where you never do have to take a pay cut,” he said. “It was a collaborative effort of trying to come up with an agreement that we could live with.”
Orvosh said most of those nearly 700 union members are process operators. The union also represents analyst specialists who work in labs, maintenance crews who do skilled trades work and people who work in logistics. All of them are full-time employees.
The new pay ranges for these positions, effective Wednesday, are: $31 to $37 an hour for process operators, $33 to $35.50 an hour for maintenance crews, $30 to $34 an hour for lab workers and $16 to $26 an hour for the logistics workers.
A Dow spokesperson issued the following statement:
“The Midland Silicones Operations Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired on March 18, 2019. Representatives from Dow Michigan Operations and United Steel Workers (USW) Local 12934 began negotiating a new CBA in good faith on February 11, 2019. The bargained for employees have voted to accept the new CBA which will ensure operations are sustainable, prepared for long-term growth and competitive in the Great Lakes Bay Region.”
The contract is effective through 2023.