Steelworkers Support Brazilian DuPont Workers on Hunger Strike

Striking workers object to profit sharing proposals.

The 117 DuPont workers who held a hunger strike in Camaari, Brazil last week gained the support of the United Steelworkers (USW). The workers, members of the Union of Chemical and Petroleum Workers of Bahia/CNQ-CUT, held the strike to protest DuPont's profit sharing proposals.

"The USW stands prepared to offer immediate assistance," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. We already have representation in Brazil fully committed to assisting our brothers and sisters there." The USW represents more than 850,000 members in the U.S. and Canada.

It is the USW's understanding that the local union offered to negotiate a fair profit sharing agreement for 2007 on behalf of its members, but that DuPont rejected all offers as out of hand. At that point, the workers, who make industrial rubber and polymers, decided to take action. Assemblies continue to be held at the factory gate.

The USW coordinates a global network of trade unions at DuPonts facilities and is challenging DuPont's so-called "undeserved" reputation for worker safety. In 2005, a worker was killed in an explosion at the Camaari facility. DuPont was faulted for not implementing control devices to prevent the explosion, according to a full report released by the State of Bahia in Brazil. In October 2007, a Brazilian Labor Court Judge ruled in favor of the deceased worker's family and fined DuPont for moral and material damages.

A DuPont spokesperson, Leslie Beckhoff, of the DuPont Operations Public Affairs office says this there is in fact no hunger strike. "A United Steelworkers (USW) report that there was a hunger strike at the DuPont Camacari, Brazil site is not true. The USW does not represent any of the more than 175 employees at the site. The local union and the site are in ongoing discussions about employees' variable compensation plan. This is a local process that is best managed at the site. "

She explains that since 2003, the USW has waged a corporate campaign against DuPont. "Distorting the facts is one of the tactics they use."

Beckholff said that " all operations at the Camacari site are working properly and that production and supply at the site continue as normal. There are no activities going on outside of the gate. "

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