The United Steel Workers Union, Local 836,  representing 108 members, are on strike against Firestone Polymers located at 5713 FM 1006 in Orange. 

More than 50 people were at the gates of the plant on Monday afternoon while two of the workers held signs and paced back and forth across the driveway. According to Richard Landry, staff representative, it is against the law in Texas to “mass picket.” Therefore, the workers must take turns carrying the signs. The last time workers with USW Local 836 picketed was in 1993.

A driver in a United Parcel Service truck refused to cross the picket line to deliver a package because his company was unionized as well. As he drove away, he gave the workers and thumbs up and wished them luck.

There are two main reasons why they chose to strike which are health care and wages, Landry said.

The workers want the right to be able to negotiate their co-pay amounts, deductibles and premiums on their insurance plans. The insurance deductible recently proposed by Firestone has tripled in costs to the workers, Landry said.

However, the insurance company is not new to Firestone, since the corporation has been using the plan, but Orange has not had the same program.

“What we are saying is that we want the right to sit at the table and achieve a fair deal,” Landry said.

Their other source of contention was the amount of the annual cost of living raises which is two percent. The annual raises are part of the contract.

“We are willing to consider any proposal, but two percent is not enough,” Landry said.

The strike started at noon Monday and will continue as long as needed, Landry said.

The strikers have planed to be at the gate 24 hours per day and continue to take turns holding the signs until a deal is reached.

The representatives for the Japanese owners are expected to arrive Tuesday morning for a walk through of the plant.

“We are disappointed that despite the efforts of the Firestone Polymers, LLC (FSPC) negotiating team, the leadership of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (“USW”) has decided to call a strike at the company’s Orange, Texas, plant. The work action will impact nearly 125 hourly employees.

It has been our goal throughout the negotiation process to achieve a contract that is in the best interest of the local union members, will allow our company to compete in the global marketplace, and will ensure that as a company we are profitable now and in the long term. We believe that the contract offered to the USW would have moved the Orange, Texas plant toward those goals.

Firestone Polymers remains committed to searching for and achieving a mutually acceptable resolution of all issues at the bargaining table,” according to a statement from Firestone Polymers.

Firestone Polymers celebrated its 50th year of operation in Orange in 2007.  In 1957, the plant opened and began operation by producing butadiene for the polymer industry. The Orange facility is said to be an industry leader in the production of Polybutadiene rubber.

The plant manufactures two types of synthetic rubber products. Diene which is their our trade name for polymerized Polybutadiene rubber. It is a high quality product that has become the standard against which such products are measured. Stereon is a trade name for polymerized styrene butadiene di-block and tri-block copolymers. These versatile block copolymers and thermoplastic elastomers can be found in many plastic, rubber, and adhesive products.


PHOTO: Joey Cormier and Norman Joseph take their turn holding the picket signs in front of Firestone Polymers located in FM 1006 in Orange. The workers went on strike to protest their current proposed contract which would change their insurance costs and a two percent wage increase.