History of Unionization – Kingston Site
DuPont Canada Inc., Kingston Site started up in 1942 with approximately 175 employees.
Employees had no representation.
Shortly thereafter, representation was in the form of a Works Council. They had no official status, bargaining strength or legal avenues to pursue to resolve differences, i.e., no legal authority to negotiate contracts or to strike. They dealt with grievances from the floor but could go no further than Plant Manager. They could not seek restitution via the arbitration route. In other words, employees had no rights other than what was legislated by law, i.e. Employment Standards Act of 1937 establishing minimum wage and in 1944 legislated hours of work of eight hours in a day or forty-eight hours in a week.
In 1947, District 50, United Mine Workers of America organized the employees of Kingston Site and became their bargaining agent.
District 50 represented the employees for the next twenty-one years until 1968. However, in 1965, we had our first and only strike. We were in a legal strike position and it lasted twenty-two days, but when we asked Washington, DC (headquarters of the United Mine Workers) for financial support (at that time a large portion of our dues went to the U.S. A., so they controlled the purse strings), their financial support was such that many of the employees only received $8.00 for the total length of the strike – not too much to live on or raise a family and make house and car payments.
The employees had enough of district 50 and wanted to control their own destiny without anyone in Washington controlling it for them.
The Kingston Independent Nylon Workers Union was formed and in 1968, it was certified by the Ontario Labour Relations Board as bargaining agent for employees at Kingston Site.
We represent employees at Kingston Site only and we make our own decisions in accordance with the dictates of our membership.
We are not affiliated with other labour organizations such as the Canadian Labour Congress – although we tried – but their constitution doesn’t recognize independent unions (to belong you must be amalgamated with or be a national or international union). We considered their loss. We are able to obtain the same statistics, educational material, as they would have supplied us with.
We also have one of the top legal firms representing unions on a yearly retainer (President of the Labour Relations Board was asked that question at one of our training seminars several years ago and his reply was, “Koskie and Minsky are one of the top three in Ontario if not across Canada”), so we consider ourselves well represented legally.
Although we are not affiliated with any other labour organizations, we use to meet three or four times per year at an Intra-Plant conference with other Unions representing employees at other Du Pont plants, i.e. Maitland and Ajax, We also met once a year with other DuPont plants across North America. We relate the problems and concerns of our respective sites and exchange ideas on how to improve working conditions. We have on occasion formed a common front and have co-signed proposed changes addressed to the company President, i.e. “O” waiting period for disability wages and pension reform.
Since DuPont Canada was taken over by its American counterpart E.I. DuPont the union now represents two companies which are E.I. DuPont and Invista. Charles Koch is the sole owner of the Invista companies. The sale was finalized on April 30 2004. This is a company with no shareholders to answer to, and with the new MBM Code of Conduct to guide both union workers and salaried employees the challenges ahead for everyone is a great culture change. It is this union’s goal to achieve the best it can for its membership as well as keep our jobs safe.
In the fall of 2008 The Millhaven Invista Site which was already owned by Koch Industries was closed and in fall 2009 Maitland Site was reduced to approximately 80 employees. The Kingston E.I. DuPont Site is nearing the second Collective Agreement renewal with less than 30 union members left.