Unions form network to counter multinational cement companies

Boilermakers attending the first meeting of the North American Cement and Building Materials Union Network are Jim Pressley, ED-ISO (second from left); Gary Prochnow, D-ISS&O (third from left); Mark Kelly, IR (center front, in black shirt); and Carey Allen, D-ISO (fifth from right). At far left is Phee Jung-sun, ICEM materials section manager. Photo courtesy Jan Voets

Boilermakers, Steelworkers lead group; network will coordinate bargaining strategies

FIVE UNIONS THAT represent workers in the North American cement/building materials industry have created a network to coordinate collective bargaining strategies and other activities. The Boilermakers and the Steelworkers will co-coordinate the group. Other participants include the Mine Workers, the Laborers, and the Teamsters.

“Our unions represent employees of large, multinational cement companies,” said Carey Allen, Director of CLGAW Division Services. “These companies develop coordinated strategies against labor unions. The unions now have their own structure to coordinate strategies and share information.”

Called the North American Cement and Building Materials Union Network, the group held its formative meeting at the Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh Feb. 9. Attending for the Boilermakers were Allen; Jim Pressley, Executive Director of Industrial Sector Operations; Gary Prochnow, Director of Industrial Services and Organizing; and Mark Kelly, International Rep.

The meeting was sponsored by the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine, and General Workers’ Unions. ICEM is a global labor organization promoting solidarity in various industry sectors. ICEM Materials Section Manager Phee Jung-sun attended the Feb. 9 meeting and also visited the Boilermakers’ headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., Feb. 8. Another global federation, the Building and Wood Workers’ International, also participated in the Pittsburgh meeting.

Allen said formation of the network was triggered, in part, by situations such as the one involving Boilermakers Local D27 (Independence, Mo.). “Members of that lodge were in contract negotiations with Lafarge last year. The company implemented a contract proposal that phases out retiree health care benefits for union employees.” French-owned Lafarge is the largest cement-maker operating in North America.

Allen said Warren Fairley, International Vice President for the Industrial Sector, brought the lodge’s case before the ICEM last year, raising awareness about unilateral actions multinational companies are taking that do harm to their American employees.

Lafarge was also the subject of one of the network’s first formal actions Feb. 9. The group passed a resolution calling on the company to cease its involvement in promoting anti-union tactics at its Joppa, Ill., cement plant, where the Mine Workers recently organized a unit.

Other major multinational cement companies operating in North America include Holcim (Swiss), Buzzi Unicem (Italian), Cemex (Mexican), Heidelberg (German), and Essroc (Italian).

The North American Cement and Building Materials Union Network plans to meet biannually. The next meeting will be held at the Boilermakers headquarters later this year.