There was an amazing scene this week at the annual meeting of DuPont shareholders. The reporting by Jeff Mordock of the The News-Journal made me feel like I was in the room witnessing it for myself.
“DuPont Co.'s safety record - not its upcoming $130 billion merger with The Dow Chemical Co. - was the focus of shareholder's ire at the company's annual meeting in New York City Wednesday. Not one shareholder asked DuPont CEO Ed Breen a question about the merger…Instead, shareholders grilled Breen about recent deaths at DuPont plants, including that of four workers killed at its LaPorte, Texas, facility in November 2014.”
The shareholders included Roy Reed an employee at that DuPont LaPorte plant. He held photos of Wade Baker, 60, Manuel Tisnado, 48, Robert Tisnado, 39, and Crystle Wise, 53 who were the victims of the company’s defective safety program. Reed is also president of Local 900 of the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) in LaPorte, TX.
Ken Henley, an attorney representing the International Brotherhood of DuPont Workers (IBDW) also addressed the DuPont CEO and board of directors. Mordock reports what Henley told the Board about its distorted priorities:
"The [Board's] safety committee met a grand total of two times in 2015. In contrast, the [Board's] compensation program met 11 times.”
At least two shareholder groups had more than just talk planned for the meeting. The IBDW introduced a resolution to create an employee advisory position. The person's role would be bringing safety concerns directly to the DuPont board of directors. The United Steelworkers had a more modest proposal. They wanted the board to report back to shareholders at the next annual meeting on specific steps taken by the company to address safety hazards at its facilities. Both proposals were defeated.
John Morawetz with the ICWUC told Mordock why he was at the shareholders’ meeting. Mordock writes:
“... to represent those who couldn't be here,’ a reference to the four deceased. LaPorte workers. He said he was not surprised the proposals were defeated, but hoped the company would revisit the ideas at a later date.”
Roy Reed, John Morawetz, and the others representing DuPont workers were participating in company's shareholder meeting at the most opportune time. Across the globe and in cities throughout the U.S., workers, labor unions, health professionals, and safety advocates were commemorating Worker Memorial Day. More than a hundred events that took place this week in the US are listed here and at least another hundred are listed here. The DuPont shareholder's meeting was every bit a Worker Memorial Day event.