United Steelworkers: DuPont 'Not Walking the Talk'

A report issued by the United Steelworkers (USW) the day before DuPont received a major safety award accuses the company of having an "abominable" safety, health and environmental record.

The report, titled "Not Walking the Talk: DuPont's Untold Safety Failures," claims DuPont's behavior-based safety program encourages injury underreporting, blasts the company's environmental record and accuses DuPont of "falsely boosting its safety statistics."

"[I] could not think of a more inappropriate corporation to profit from safety," said Ken Test, chair of USW's DuPont Council.

About 50 members of USW and other unions showed up at the Sept. 21 opening session of the National Safety Council's (NSC) 93rd Annual Congress and Expo to protest NSC's announcement that DuPont is the recipient of the 2006 Green Cross for Safety Medallion.

During DuPont executive Ellen Kullman's remarks, protesters held up signs with messages such as "Safety is a Sham Under [CEO] Chad Holliday," "DuPont's Lasting Legacy: 20 Superfund Sites" and "DuPont: Largest Producer of Dioxins in the U.S."

DuPont: USW Using Safety as a Bargaining Tool

DuPont spokesperson Leslie Beckhoff said USW, as part of a "corporate campaign" against DuPont that was launched in April 2003, is trying to use safety as a negotiating tactic for bargaining at the local level.

"They've continued this campaign on many levels to gain attention and, obviously, in an attempt to embarrass the company," Beckhoff said. " … Obviously, we're disappointed they decided to show up at the World Congress such a prestigious event held here in the U.S. for the first time, with 5,000 people coming from 110 countries. It was just another way for them to try to embarrass the company."

Beckhoff pointed out that it has been DuPont's longstanding "philosophy" to negotiate with labor unions at the local level, adding that the goal of USW's campaign is to get DuPont to bargain with the union at the corporate level. Beckhoff said that USW represents about 1,800 of DuPont's 35,000 U.S. employees, at five of the company's 150 U.S. sites.

"It doesn't seem to serve a purpose for them to be handling this particular issue in this way," she said.

While Beckhoff acknowledged that some of the information in USW's report is accurate such as some references to environmental- and public health-related lawsuits that have been filed against DuPont in recent years she also blasted the report for containing "many, many errors and misinformation on a number of counts."

"No company is perfect," Beckhoff said. " … But anyone who knows DuPont knows our safety history and our commitment to environmental stewardship. They're core to DuPont's values."

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