Eastman Chemical cuts 300 jobs, shares close up
Update Associated Press March 9, 2009
KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Eastman Chemical Co. on Monday said it will take a $30 million charge as it cuts up to 300 jobs and reduces salaries, in an effort to trim costs and keep its dividend and lowered capital spending plans intact. This marks the second round of cost cutting in the last four months for the Kingsport, Tenn. maker of chemicals, coatings, adhesives and specialty plastics products. In December, it said it was reducing contractors, part-time labor, management and its maximum vacation carry-over amount...
Eastman Chemical said it will begin cutting 200 to 300 workers, nearly 3 percent of its global work force, within the next four to six weeks...Ferguson said he expects 2009 earnings per share between $2 and $3...
It was only about two years ago Eastman Chemical announced it would be hiring 2000 workers according to various press reports. Instead Eastman Chemical Company plans $100 million in cost reductions in 2009, $80 million of that will involve wage and job loses. For years they've claimed a labor shortage, but never seemed to hire any of the region's many college graduates. This in reality has gone on for years as Eastman in Kingsport has cut thousands of jobs as Ferguson came to power replacing Ernie Davenport, once crowned as one of the worst value CEOs.
To quote the press, "We have taken a number of actions over the past several years that better position the company for economic downturns," said Eastman Chairman and CEO Brian Ferguson. "In addition, the company's flexible workforce structure allows us to quickly and effectively respond to today's challenging economic environment...We continue to believe, however, that the company is well positioned to weather this current economic crisis, and that we can successfully manage costs while pursuing our plans for growth."
I warned several people at a local community college Eastman was not going to be hiring the 2000 people they were claiming in the press so taking a lot of extra college classes wasn't going to produce anything. I was right again. "Given the sudden and dramatic deterioration of the global economy, we are slowing work on some of our projects as it makes sense to do so," said Ferguson. I know, we have another labor shortage and need to import cheap foreign labor via H1B visas to fill them. http://www.eastman.com.
I told you so
Eastman begins laying off 200 workers in Kingsport; won't discuss rumors of more layoffs, sale of company
By Sharon Hayes Kingsport Times-News April 6th, 2009:
Some 300 Eastman Chemical Co. employees - including 200 in Kingsport - are being notified this week that they no longer have a job. The Kingsport-based company announced March 9 it would cut 200 to 300 positions worldwide in four to six weeks as part of a plan to trim $100 million from its expense line in 2009. Monday marked exactly four weeks since that announcement...the ongoing global downturn led the company to announce another round of cuts in March, amounting to another $100 million, including the reduction in labor force and a 5 percent cut in employee pay...After the layoffs, Eastman will employ 10,200 worldwide, including 6,800 in Kingsport.
Note that is down from 7500 in late 2006. That's another 700 jobs in little over two years and at least 3000-4000 since I started this website in 1999. Yet Eastman still claims a labor shortage and is demanding more qualified workers. What they want is a cheaper labor force. I wonder if Davenport is still there advising Mr. Ferguson?
Fun and Games at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport Tennessee
By Lewis Loflin
Eastman's Brian Ferguson speaks at Meadowview Center on education problem
Update: KINGSPORT - The board of directors of Eastman Chemical Co. has declared a quarterly cash dividend of 44 cents per share on the company's common stock. The dividend is payable Jan. 2, 2006, to stockholders of record as of Dec. 15. Good going Mr. Ferguson.
Eastman Chemical's new CEO has his work cut out for him. Replacing Earnie Deavenport ranked as one of the "worst value" CEOs in America and with the company losing $179 million in 2001, lack of an educated workforce is only one problem he faces. Retaining Deavenport as a high-priced consultant has also drawn fire. Even with restructuring its management team (December 2002), Eastman Chemical warns shares could drop 10 to 20 cents in fourth quarter of 2003. Workers also didn't get their annual bonuses costing the local economy while I'm sure Brian and Earnie got theirs. You can bet Brian and Earnie will walk away rich while thousands of former Eastman workers are selling apples on street corners.
One problem not addressed is the staggering drop-out rate in the region's schools. Almost 50% of adults never completed high school while community colleges suffer 60% drop-out rates. It isn't just money and low-pay because most college graduates face here but hostility and discrimination from employers who want people kept "in their place." The following letter(s) to the Kingsport Times-News puts all of this in perspective. They claim companies here are hiring, but nobody believes it.
As an honor graduate of Northeast State, Kingsport's decision to pay the tuition of students (Times-News 1/23) is to be commended. I know the quality and hard work put forth by the faculty there. More astounding is our local baron class is discussing the "brain drain" at all.
Eastman's new CEO Mr. Ferguson (Times News 1/23) pleaded with local officials to address the problem. The excellent editorial "Tennessee Unprepared" (Times-News 1/8) was on target in its assessment. While we have plenty of college graduates, nobody will address why we lack skilled, educated workers in the Tri-Cities region.
Quoting ETSU economist Steb Hipple, "manufacturing jobs...pay higher wages...than those in service-related industries...the region's overall payroll may be declining, despite a net gain of jobs." (Times-News 4/10/01) What makes Tri-Cities a great retirement community (poverty pay scales) is the reason we can't attract or retain skilled workers. That's only part of the problem.
Quoting "How Things Work" by Eve Green (Your View 8/29/01), "no one gets compensation for experience or education levels..." Anyone who thinks above an 8th grade level is considered a threat to the system. "Keeping them in their place" and "who you know, not what you know" is how things work here.
Her daughter's industrial technology degree is as worthless as my information technology degree. Mrs. Green's 34 years in medical are as worthless as my 26 years in electronics. Many fellow graduates complained, "$5 an hour." Nobody can live on that and who cares about "cultural amenities?" Education is worthless here and if I weren't a homeowner I'd join the exodus to Atlanta. (Some would love that.)
No decent company will locate in an illiterate backwater retirement community like this or put up with the quarreling fiefdoms we call local government. Without real social/economic changes, Eastman will also be history.
Please note many people believe Eastman isn't hiring, but wants to use temp agencies and subcontractors to evade pay and benefits "hi tech" can get anywhere else. As for Kingsport sending people to NE State for free, it still doesn't change the fact most NE State graduates still can't get a job and just relocate. They won't discuss pay and skilled people go where the money is. If this is the wrong image, they need to correct it. In fact at the last job fair in Bristol, Virginia (2007) they didn't even man their booth.
Why your college degree is worthless here
Typical are these letters in the Kingsport Times-News March 24, 2006,
Couldn't get a job in Tri-Cities
As a student in the Hawkins County school system, I listened to the engineers from Eastman talk about the opportunities available to those with the right education. I graduated as the valedictorian of my high school class with honors and went on to graduate from Tennessee Tech University with bachelor's degrees in both chemical engineering and chemistry. Upon graduation, I had a 3.4 GPA and almost two years of co-op experience in the chemical industry.
So, in 2004/2005 when I was seeking employment back home, I felt good about my chances. Eastman, BAE, and NFS all had entry-level openings. To my surprise, I was not offered a single interview. How can a company know about your work ethic, skills, and drive if they won't even give you a chance?
Several of my friends from college had been trying to come back home to start their careers, but most faced the same fate. For several years before my graduation, none of the local companies came to Tech's campus to recruit any of the homegrown talent that was there. I understand that Eastman is finally going back there to recruit, but that is too little, too late for so many of us. What kind of example does that set for the next generation?
If someone wanted to pursue an engineering or science degree and work in the area, why would they follow that path when they know of so many who did and were denied their dreams?
In spite of it all, I am very blessed. In my current job, I get to work on the rocket motors for the current and future space exploration vehicles. It's just a shame I had to go 2,000 miles from home to find a company that appreciates my knowledge and skills.
Heather Rhoton, Ogden, Utah
Area's brain trust outsourced
March 28, 2006
After reading all of the articles stating there is such a need for educated individuals to fill the job market in Eastern Tennessee, I too, had to laugh. After graduating from East Tennessee State University with a high grade point average, spending one year co-oping at Eastman Chemical Company and specializing in the field that I am now enjoying great success in, I had to move 650 miles away to North Carolina to find employment.
Most of the people I graduated with that went on to college have also moved out of state to find decent paying jobs in their field of study. The problem was and still is that those in power to employ look to out-of-state universities instead of in-state, thinking that those institutions are teaching better skill sets. The other problem is for decades, the companies promoted from within individuals without the education, skill level, or competencies necessary for certain jobs just because the individual had seniority. I saw this firsthand when I applied time and time again for positions at a major manufacturing company.
Now they are reaping the benefits of what was sown for so many years. Like the other person in Utah, I am now a happy North Carolinian working for a community college teaching young people. It is a shame that the brain trust of the area has been outsourced to other states that now enjoy educated and skilled workers.
Deborah S. Clark Greenville, N.C.
Poor work ethic not the real issuePrinted Kingsport Times-News April 9, 2006
I commend Heather Rhoton (3/24) and Deborah Clark (3/28) as examples of the many qualified workers we have in Tri-Cities, yet their fate is all too common. I also laughed at the editorial about the need for high-tech workers. I was furious with the misguided editorial "Strong Work Ethic Sadly Lacking in Region" (Nov. 6). What is wrong with this picture? Is that why Heather and Deborah had to flee Tri-Cities? Why is our lazy, shiftless workforce highly sought elsewhere? Eastman CEO Ferguson has whined about high-tech workers since he got here, yet he isn't hiring. I checked Eastman.com, and there are no jobs listed for Kingsport, but it did announce a new plant in China.
As the Tarnoff report clearly stated, local business refuses to pay better wages to get the people they need. CEO Ferguson has a big problem paying less money and benefits in a social culture that holds education and achievement in contempt. As I was informed by one local business, college graduates don't mix into the local workforce, so "we don't hire people with college." The problem isn't work ethic or education, it's a cultural problem of social apartheid combined with an abusive, low-wage employment system that's driven thousands of qualified people to leave the area.
This leaves too many unqualified people not only illiterate, but often into drug and alcohol abuse. Their children are often unmotivated as well. Unless local culture changes, let's just ship Eastman Chemical to China and get it over with.
Few good jobs
Re. "Futurist Sees "Tremendous Opportunity," I worked eight years at Eastman Chemical Co. during the '70s and chose to resign to take care of my children. At that time there was no daycare system in place to contend with my husband's shift work. For 12 years I struggled to obtain a decent paying job in Kingsport. I had a B.S. degree in English/business education and a year toward an MBA.
Yet, it was only after I returned to school to pursue another area in medical records that I was able to obtain another career path at Holston Valley Medical Center. During those years I continually felt that I should be able to find a job. After all, I was educated and had work experience. Now, years later, I think I am able to see the reality. If there is no job, you cannot get it.
If someone needs to make more than $8 an hour in Kingsport, they probably need highly skilled training or to move elsewhere. I still work in a hospital and am grateful to Holston Valley for the opportunity they gave me, a then 46-year-old. I think your leaders need to really look at facts as they are. There are not very many people there who are willing to hire anyone over 40 years old and then spend much time training them. Add that to the fact that very few jobs paying above $8 an hour are available.
Don't ask people to go out and spend time and money trying to do the impossible. Also don't have them going to school and incurring debt for no reason. Make sure they only train for jobs that are available in the area, especially if they are like me and unable to move away.
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