Eastman, union spar over 'misinformation'

Hank Hayes • Aug 18, 2019 at 3:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Eastman and a union organizer are having a dispute over who’s spreading “misinformation” to Eastman employees.

Last spring, the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) began an effort to organize Eastman workers.

“We’re still getting cards coming in from employees and working on moving forward with this,” ICWUC organizer Lance Heasley said in a phone interview. “With a plant that size, it’s going to take some time. There’s been a lot of misinformation given to the employees by the company. It’s problematic but it’s not uncommon. They told them they know who signs cards. That’s not true. The only people who knows who signs cards are the person who signs it, myself and the National Labor Relations Board.”

The signed cards are a vote for a union election.

In an email, Eastman spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said unions often try to convince employees that the company is providing misinformation.

“That’s a tactic they use on a regular basis,” she responded. “In discussing unions and the legal ramifications of signing a union authorization card with our employees, we’ve committed to providing accurate and factual information to help them make the choice that’s best for them and their families. The union’s allegation that we’ve told our employees we know who signs the cards is simply not true.”

Heasley noted that in order to hold an election, 30 percent of the employees have to show an interest.

“I normally don’t file (for a union election) unless I have a majority of the workforce that want to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to go through it unless we can help them. So in order to show the board that we have significant number of people who want to have an election, they have to sign a card saying they want to have one.

“That’s something we’re still working toward. It’s going to take time. We are still getting cards coming in. We’re not where we want to be at this time.”

Eslinger said, “What we have told our employees is if the union reaches the point where they get enough cards signed and they file an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Eastman, by law, will be required to furnish the union and the NLRB with the names, home addresses, personal phone numbers (home and cell), and personal email addresses we have on file of ALL employees who would be included in the voting unit — regardless of whether they’ve signed an authorization card.”

Eastman is a Kingsport-based specialty products maker.