Synthesis/Regeneration 9   (Winter 1996)


Edward E. Dent, Betrayal: Employee Relations at DuPont

reviewed by Jana Cutlip, Mid-Ohio Valley Greens

Edward E. Dent, BETRAYAL: Employee Relations at DuPont: 1981-1994,
Brunswick Publishing Co., Lawrenceville VA, 1995.
175 p. Paper, $18 + $5 shipping/handling

Betrayal by Edward E. Dent is a strong indictment of corporate American business policy from an insiders viewpoint. It is a detailed history of corporate downsizing and union organizing at one DuPont facility in Virginia. The author provides an exhaustive account of the machinations of DuPont's attempt to remain competitive in a shrinking global economy. Included within the work are numerous documents released by the company, the United Steelworkers of Americas, the Amphill Rayon Workers Inc., the Concerned Amphill Rayon Employees, the National Labor Relations Board, and numerous cartoons by anonymous sources which circulated throughout the plant over a 13 year period.

Mr. Dent opens the book with the following document from a source unknown:

In the beginning was the plan
and then came the assumptions
and the assumptions were without form
and the plan was completely without substance
and darkness was upon the face of the workers
and they spoke amongst themselves, saying
"It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh,"
and the workers went unto their Supervisors and sayeth,
"It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odour thereof,"
and the Supervisors went unto their Managers, and sayeth unto them,
"It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong
such that none may abide by it,"
and the Managers went unto their Directors and sayeth,
"It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide it's strength"
and the Directors spoke amongst themselves, saying one to another,
"It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong,"
and the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents, and sayeth unto them,
"It promotes growth and is very powerful,"
and the Vice Presidents went unto the President and sayeth unto him,
"This new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency
of this company, and these areas in particular,"
and the President looked upon the plan,
and saw that it was good, and the plan became policy.

Mr. Dent then proceeds to enumerate the many ways which DuPont instituted "The Plan."

E. I. DuPont de Nemours is the thirteenth largest corporation in sales volume in the US. It employs over 106,000 people worldwide. In 1984, DuPont was listed in The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for offering "cradle to grave security" and a "benevolent attitude toward employees". (It neglects to mention how the timeliness of the grave might be affected by prolonged exposure to toxins.) During the oil crisis of the seventies, DuPont acquired Conoco Oil Co. and the Bronfman brothers acquired a substantial stake in DuPont, and employee relations began to change. The company began to institute cultural changes which severely impacted the workers job descriptions, benefit packages and job security.

Mr. Dent leads us step by plodding step through each of these changes; from the TEAMS concept which unleashed "cut-throat competition" among employees, to the hiring of Limited Service Employees at a fraction of the wages paid to the Wage Roll employees whom they replaced, to moving operations overseas.

Mr. Dent concludes, "In the future, it will be small businesses who will attract the best and the brightest, not the big companies." He questions whether younger workers coming into the manufacturing industry might want to think about whether they want to work for big business at all. In Betrayal he provides documentation to answer that question with a resounding, "NO!"

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