Dow Rakes in Record Profits

In the first quarter of this year, Dow made a killing:

April 28 (Bloomberg) — Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, said first-quarter profit almost tripled on higher demand and prices for chlorine and plastics.
Net income rose to $1.35 billion, or $1.39 a share, from $469 million, or 50 cents, a year earlier, Midland, Michigan-based Dow said today in a statement. Sales gained 25 percent to $11.7 billion from $9.31 billion

Dow is just as guilty as this thief
Dow’s announcement is only the latest in a series of good quarters for the company. Dow’s profits have spiked sharply since 2002 according to the Bay City Times (04/27):

MIDLAND – For Dow Chemical Co., what a difference a few years make.
In 2002, the company fired its top official, suffered from plunging profits and, in the words of its present boss, revived “from near death.”
But new President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris spoke of Dow’s recovery Tuesday when he addressed about 200 community and business leaders at Valley Plaza Resort.

But whence this new upswing, even in the face of rising energy and feedstock costs? Dow credits the “restructuring” plan it launched in 2003, which has led to widespread layoffs, pay cuts, and losses through attrition and plant shutdowns. In April of 2004, Dow announced that 3,000 more jobs, or about 7% of its workforce, would go as the company continued its “restructuring.” These included job losses in Freeport, Texas and Kanawha Valley, where one worker, Stanley Stricker, a 30-year employee at the plant, said “We haven’t slept easy since this damn outfit [Dow] took over. These people sold their souls, they made a deal with the devil. They’re just canning people and saying, ‘This is the way it has to be.'”
Nor are workers in Dow’s own hometown of Midland, Michigan, immune from Dow’s crusade against unions and workers. Under a newly-ratified, eight-year contract, nearly 20 percent of Dow’s workers are facing pay cuts so severe that their families could lose their middle class status and slip into poverty (See the Midland Daily News). “I would never say this is a good contract,” said Kent Holsing, president of the United Steelworkers Local 12075, which represents 961 employees. “What I would say is that this is the best possible contract we could get. It was gut-wrenching.” Terri Johnson, the public affairs leader at Dow’s Michigan Operations, expressed things a different way: “[Dow is] extremely pleased with the outcome of this vote.”
Meanwhile Dow’s last CEO, William Stavropoulos, must also be pleased. He was awarded a $2.3 million bonus in 2003, on top of a $1.3 million base salary and millions more in other incentives and benefits, according to the company’s proxy statement. Kenny Perdue, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO, responded by saying that the bonus “Flies in the face of the workers. …The workers are out there doing their jobs, trying to keep their pay and benefits and feed their families and the CEO is awarded a $2.3 million bonus that in his own mind he believes he’s worth,” Perdue said. “And all along the company is laying off workers. Why couldn’t the company use some of this bonus to keep workers?”
Quite the contrary, Dow seems intent on slashing its workforce to the bone in pursuit of maximum profitability. Union Carbide did the same in Bhopal in the years leading up to the disaster, laying off workers, cutting back on safety training, and neglecting maintenance. The result was a spectacular meltdown: none of the plant’s six safety systems were functional that night, either because they were in disrepair or because they’d been shut off to save money. Carbide’s response to the disaster? Blame a worker for sabotage (Dow and Carbide still make the claim today).
Now that Dow is pursuing Carbide’s winning strategy, where will the next Bhopal take place? It’s too soon to tell, but no doubt they’ll find another worker to take the blame.

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