Weyerhaeuser strike continues as company, employees remain at loggerheads

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Weyerhaeuser employees finished their fifth week of a strike on Oct. 19 and entered a sixth week as negotiations continue to prove unfruitful following the most recent meetings on Oct. 13-14.

More than 1,100 employees on the West Coast halted production at two log export facilities, two log truck operations, seven logging camps and four sawmills on Sept. 13 following unsuccessful contract negotiations between Weyerhaeuser and union members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge W246 (IAM).

The contention centers around an age-old dispute: what employees describe as a request for a living wage and reasonable benefits from a multimillion-dollar employer.

Northwest Weyerhaeuser workers already agreed to concessions in their most recent contract, including a two-tier set-up which terminated the pension for new hires. They also agreed to allow the company to leave the union-sponsored health and welfare trust, and workers say the health insurance benefits that replaced it aren’t as good. Strikers have said they’re determined not to make concessions again.

Lebanon Local spoke to Lodge President Tom Thede on Oct. 14, who said they were preparing to continue talks that day and a federal mediator had stepped in to handle the negotiations.

“Hopefully today we can make some movement and put something different in front of our members beside the same offer,” Thede said.

“Basically, the two times we voted, we basically voted over the same issue and it was rejected overwhelmingly both times, so we keep telling the company we need to do something better to put in front of our membership if you want to get this thing done.”

The two sides have been meeting via Zoom, but Thede said on Oct. 17 that format wasn’t working very well, so they are scheduled to meet again in person on Thursday, Oct. 20. Weyerhaeuser could not be contacted for comment by press time.

Weyerhaeuser reported $771 million net earnings in its first quarter of 2022 (a $90 million increase from a year prior), and $788 million in its second quarter of 2022 (a $212 million decrease from a year prior).

According to News Editor Preeti Singh of Seeking Alpha, an investing community, the company was seeing wood products earnings to be comparable to that of Quarter 2, but earnings dropped about $40 million just two weeks after the strike began.

Weyerhaeuser stock fell from $34.56 on Sept. 12 to $28.87 on Oct. 10, but began a slight climb on Oct. 11. The company will release its third quarter results on Oct. 27.

Shares of the company’s stock have declined since the strike began.