The strike at the Kapstone paper mill and box plant in Longview, Washington, ended Sept. 8 after 12 days, but there’s still no contract between the company and the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW). Union vice president Greg Pallesen says he wouldn’t be surprised if Kapstone locks out AWPPW members before the end of the year.
“We think they would do it just to try to scare people,” Pallesen said.
Workers went on strike several weeks after Kapstone imposed the terms of its final offer, which includes health benefit cuts and changes to seniority and transfer rights. The work stoppage reportedly cost workers $2.4 million in wages and benefits — and the company $14 million in net income.
Kapstone refused to allow five of the strikers to return to work. Managers also sent home a worker who put a “no scabs” sticker on his coffee thermos, and threatened to fire him if he returned to work with the sticker.
“Even though people know they have a legal right to do something, there’s not a lot of them that can go without a paycheck for six months or a year,” Pallesen said.
On Oct. 12, Kapstone wrote AWPWW demanding that it schedule another vote within six days on the company’s imposed offer, but the union declined.
“We have no intention of re-voting,” Pallesen said. “They want us to vote yes on what we already received.”
Pallesen says Kapstone has also switched to mostly non-union maintenance contractors in Longview, after members of the Bricklayers, Plumbers, Carpenters, and other unions refused to cross AWPPW’s picket line during the strike.
AWPPW has accused Kapstone of multiple labor law violations, including refusal to bargain in good faith. A hearing on the charges before an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board was scheduled for December but has been postponed until February 2016. A lot could rest on the outcome: If the judge rules Kapstone broke the law, it could mean that workers could strike over the violations and the company would not be lawfully allowed to permanently replace them. AWPPW hasn’t ruled out another strike.
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