By MALLORY GRUBEN
About 75 paper mill workers in St. Helens will lose their jobs in October when the Cascades Tissues Group plant closes. The Québec, Canada-based company announced the closure Aug. 10. It’s the company’s second plant closure in Oregon this year; in July, Cascades closed its mill in Scappoose that employed nearly 90 workers. Also in July, Cascades shut down one machine and laid off about 45 workers in St. Helens.
“Over the past few months, market conditions on the West Coast and a significant decline in demand in this region for brown recycled products specifically manufactured at the facility have compromised the long-term financial viability of the plant,” CEO Jean-David Tardiff said in a prepared statement on Aug. 10.
Workers at the St. Helens plant are represented by the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) Local 1. (The Scappoose workers were not unionized, though reporting from the Columbia County Spotlight found a secret organizing campaign had started before the closure was announced.) Last month, the union and company were still negotiating severance.
A worker who asked not to be named said employees were told the closure is related to an increase of paper imports from China. The union and company plan to file a petition for the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which offers more generous benefits for workers whose job loss was related to foreign trade. The program is on an indefinite hold because Congress has not approved funding it past a June 30, 2022, end date.
In the meantime, many of the workers will apply for jobs at other paper mills in the area. The nearest plants are located about 40 minutes away in Clatskanie and Longview, Washington.