BEAUMONT, Texas—More than 40 workers at a specialty chemicals plant in Texas that serves the tire and rubber industries are seeking their first union contract.
The employees at Cray Valley Hydrocarbon Specialty Chemicals in Beaumont are in negotiations with the company after beginning organization efforts last fall. Employees voting for union representation include production operators, material handlers, laboratory technicians, maintenance workers, and instrument and electrical technicians, according to the United Steelworkers union.
Labor talks are taking place after the employees leveled charges of unfair discipline against Cray Valley. Organizers also claim the company "started eliminating job positions and changing them entirely," according to the USW.
"We're in the beginning process to start a new negotiation for their first contract," said Richard "Hoot" Landry, a USW staff representative who is helping with the negotiations. "We're just going through that process right now."
The two sides have an interim agreement in place to cover issues such as union recognition and grievance procedures as they work toward a comprehensive deal, Landry said.
The talks, he said, are going "pretty good. We've been back and forth. Talked about some major issues. … So far, so good. We have some tough issues coming up, but that's just part of the game."
Negotiating an initial contract for newly organized employees typically takes more time than renewal efforts because labor and management must hammer out details for the first time, Landry said.
Both sides are proceeding under the temporary agreement that requires a 30-day notice for either a worker strike or a company lockout, Landry said.
"So far, everything has been on a level playing field. I'm sure when we get down the road we will run into to some tougher issues that we'll disagree on. But, right now, the process is working," he said.
The USW represents 44 workers at the Cray Valley facility, and Landry estimated there are "probably a few more" at the smaller plant who are not members of the union.
Wages and benefits will be part of the negotiation, Landry said, but were not the main issues that led to employees organizing.
Company officials couldn't be reached for comment.
The Beaumont facility is part of Total S.A., an oil and gas company based in Paris. The facility makes "specialty low molecular weight functional additives," the company said. The Texas location is a unit of Total's refining and chemicals business.