Fourteen Weyerhaeuser Co. employees picketed in front of the timber company’s research center on Pearl Street in Centralia on Thursday to continue their protest of Weyerhaeuser’s latest contract proposal.
The group was one of many protesting at various Weyerhaeuser sites across the Pacific Northwest on the third day of the strike, which the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Woodworkers (IAMAW) District Lodge W24 authorized on Sept. 2.
“The union membership as a whole is truly disappointed in the current contract proposal offered by Weyerhaeuser Company. The offerings are not up to many standards in today's economy,” said striking Weyerhaeuser mechanic Wayne Pace, reading from a prepared statement on Thursday.
About 350 Longview employees are represented locally by the Woodworkers Local 536 union under the umbrella of the IAMAW, according to reporting by The Longview Daily News.
The union membership’s primary qualms with the new contract proposal have to do with health and welfare, said Pace. Specifically, Weyerhaeuser is asking employees to pay their own insurance premiums and deductibles, while offering employees “very little” on a retirement pension plan and unsatisfactory wages — especially given the company’s record profits last year, employees said..
“The Weyerhaeuser wages aren’t quite up to industry standards on many jobs. And we have many skilled, dependable, hard working employees that deserve a much better contract,” read Pace.
Most of the Weyerhaeuser employees picketing in Centralia on Thursday were Lewis County residents, primarily from the Pe Ell and Adna areas, who had worked with the lumber company for 20 years or more.
Pace is an Adna resident who has worked at Weyerhaeuser for 32 years.
When asked what it meant for him personally to take part in the strike, Pace said, “For me, it’s for our local brothers here just to get a much better contract, a fairer contract when it comes down to it. And, I mean, I’ve worked with these guys for years. They’re good, hard working people.”
The strike officially began on Tuesday, with workers focused on blocking the gates to Weyerhaeuser’s facility in Longview to stall the trucking side of the operation.
“It seems so far we’ve been successful,” said Pace.
Weyerhaeuser stated in a news release on Tuesday it “will continue working closely with customers and other partners in the region to minimize supply disruptions.”
IAMAW represents approximately 1,200 Weyerhaeuser employees, according to a statement on the timber company’s website.
Weyerhaeuser generated $10.2 billion in net sales and employed approximately 9,200 people in 2021, according to a statement on the company’s website.
While employees’ current contract expired at the end of May and Weyerhaeuser stated it has “made several offers related to wages and benefits” since then, union members feel “they have stalled on negotiations on bargaining for a new contract,” read Pace from a prepared statement.
A union representative told KOIN 6 News on Tuesday that negotiations are expected to continue on Friday.
The last time Weyerhaeuser workers went on strike was in 1986.