By COLIN STAUB
Of the four remaining West Coast Weyerhaeuser sites that are nonunion, two could go union soon. Machinists District Lodge W24 is running organizing campaigns at an Albany distribution center and a Eugene production facility.
The union filed June 9 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to represent 20 workers in Albany, and filed June 16 to represent 125 workers at the Eugene location.
Workers in Eugene make engineered wood products like laminated beams. The facility was owned by Trus Joist until Weyerhaeuser acquired it in 2000. After the sale 22 years ago, things started changing at the facility. Workers would get no raises, or they’d get a 15-cent raise, says Jon Irvine, who helped organize the workers for District Lodge W24.
“They went from one of the best places to work in town to one of the lowest-paid timber product places around,” Irvine said.
Today, the top wage is $22.80 (Irvine says that’s the entry-level wage at similar union shops). Workers sometimes get assigned to mandatory overtime with short notice.
After a longtime employee at the Eugene facility contacted the Machinists about unionizing, other veteran employees joined the organizing committee. They quickly built support, and by the time Irvine asked the NLRB to hold an election, 75% of workers were supportive.
The Albany campaign began with an unrelated call from a worker there. It’s a distribution center where wood products are sent before being shipped out to retailers. Irvine met with several workers, and 17 out of 20 employees soon signed cards supporting the union.
Irvine says Weyerhaeuser recently had trouble bringing in new employees, so it added a $1,500 hiring bonus and increased the starting wage to $20 an hour (the same wage some longtime workers are making). But the company didn’t improve compensation for current employees.
Irvine was hoping for neutrality from the employer, but the company is running an anti-union campaign. Weyerhaeuser has retained The Kullman Firm, an anti-union law firm that “has developed successful legal strategies to resist union organizational attempts,” according to its website.
The date and manner of the elections was not final by press time.
The vast majority of Weyerhaeuser facilities on the West Coast are unionized. District Lodge W24 represents over 1,100 Weyerhaeuser workers in Oregon and Washington. Besides Albany and Eugene, the only nonunion locations are a distribution center in Washington and one in California.