Over 1,100 timber workers on strike across Oregon and Washington
LONGVIEW Wash. (KPTV) - Hundreds of employees of Weyerhaeuser, one of the nation’s largest timber companies, began a massive strike in the early hours of Tuesday in Washington and Oregon.
Workers say that most recent contract negotiations did not yield a substantial increase in wages, improved retirement, and under the proposed agreement, workers would have to start paying a healthcare insurance premium without any improvements in coverage.
Weyerhaeuser locations on strike include Aberdeen, Longview, Raymond, Coos Bay, Springfield and Cottage Grove.
The strike includes all Weyerhauser workers represented by the union, International Association of Machinist and Aerospace (IAM) Workers.
The Longview Weyerhaeuser sawmill on the banks of the Columbia exports timber and timber products all over the world. It is normally a bustling complex, but as of Tuesday thousands of logs that would normally be loaded onto ships and trucks are now piling up. Local IAM union president, Kelly Zink says this is the first strike of Weyerhaeuser workers since 1986.
“The contract proposal was voted down almost unanimously, and the same thing with the strike vote, almost unanimously in favor,” said Zink.
Workers on strike say their union contract has been normally been renewed successfully with the company every four years, but they say the company is not doing enough to compensate workers in the current economy.
“We have a really hard time employing any staff, getting any staff to even show up for interviews, we’ve had openings for millwrights, electricians, production people,” said maintenance supervisor Rick Davis. “We’ve had multiple employees leave to go right across the street literally for higher wages.”
Davis says lumber from the Longview sawmill exports timber as far away as Asia, and lumber here supplies big box hardware stores up and down the West Coast. Davis says all exports will be halted until a new agreement is reached.
“We’ll be here until they want to come back to the table and offer a substantial wage increase and a benefit package.”
No one from Weyerhaeuser’s upper management was available for an interview, but a spokesperson for the company sent back a statement that reads:
“While we are very disappointed in their decision to walk out, we are committed to supporting our employees and negotiating in good faith with union representatives. We are prepared to continue discussions to produce a contract that is beneficial for employees and sustainable for the company across business cycles.”
It is unclear at this time where negotiations stand or how long the strike will last.
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