Weyerhaeuser workers stop production, strike

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Weyerhaeuser employees went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, outside all West Coast facilities, including the location in Lebanon, where a large group of workers congregated that morning with signs.
The local strikers, who are affiliated with the Springfield-based International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge W246 (IAM), said their wage increase for the next four years would be 7% less than the insurance rate increase the company plans over the course of the contract, among other items of contention.
“We have been bargaining [with Weyerhaeuser since May], but we feel that the changes that we have proposed are falling on deaf ears, basically,” Lodge President Tom Thede said.
“They have an agenda on what they’re willing to pay, but we don’t feel that they are listening to what our members’ needs are. We don’t feel the wages that they’re offering are meeting the needs of what’s going on as far as the economy.”
Employees previously used an insurance company that offered a low deductible plan, but the union negotiated with Weyerhauser for employees to transfer to the company plan. According to Thede, that plan has a higher deductible, but employees didn’t have to pay the deductibles during the contract’s term.
“This time they’re trying to get us to start paying part of the premiums on the insurance,” he said.

An employee cooks up some brats for his coworkers during their seventh day on strike outside the Santiam Weyerhaeuser mill on Sept. 19.

Also, current employees who’ve been with the company for more than 20 years receive five weeks of vacation, plus a bonus week of pay. Under the new contract, when employees reach that mark, they will not receive that extra week of pay.
The strike affects logging, trucking and wood production in Oregon and Washington, causing a stoppage of plywood supply for California and Phoenix.
“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,” Denise Merle, Weyerhaeuser’s senior vice president and chief administration officer, said in a prepared statement issued Sept. 13.
“We are prepared to continue discussions to produce a contract that is beneficial for employees and sustainable for the company across business cycles.”
The union returned to the negotiations table Friday, Sept. 16. However, due to the Lebanon Local’s production schedule, its outcome was unknown at press time.
“The way the bargaining has been going so far, I’m not really that hopeful,” Thede said, “but maybe I’ll be surprised.”
The IAM represents 1,200 Weyerhaeuser employees. Founded in 1900, the Washington-based real-estate investment trust, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, has about 130 locations in the U.S. and Canada, with 11 in Oregon, including Lebanon and Albany.