Weyerhaeuser Strikers receive community support
Cottage Grove, Oregon - The Weyerhaeuser strike is not simply a labor issue. It is a community issue and Cottage Grove is responding accordingly. Josh Fattal, the Executive Director of the Center for Rural Livelihoods, organized a community-wide potluck on Main Street to support the strikers. Workers have been without pay for one month, their health care has expired, and 1,100 workers are picketing throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The potluck dinner on Saturday October 15th at Opal Whitely Park on 7th and Main St and was followed by a benefit concert with local musicians at the Axe and Fiddle, where nearly $900 was raised for the strikers. Jonah Melton, a member of the I.A.M.A.W. local 246 and machine operator at the Cottage Grove Weyerhaeuser plant reflected on the event, “having the community stand behind and support us while we stand the line in these difficult times is an endearing experience. I really appreciate everyone at the Axe and Fiddle for creating, hosting, and speaking on Saturday.”
At the September 26th City council meeting, Dana Merryday—a candidate for City Council Ward 3—petitioned Cottage Grove City Council to write an open letter to Weyerhaeuser in support of the striking workers. The only public support from any government official has come from Cottage Grove Mayor Jeff Gowing—himself a Weyerhaeuser employee currently on strike. On Saturday Gowing spoke to a rapt audience of workers and supporters in the Axe and Fiddle about the struggle for fair compensation.
This past year Weyerhaeuser has logged record profits, dolled out supplemental dividends to shareholders, and compensated its CEO with $12 million salary. Yet, its contributions to our community have been steadily dropping. The steep industrial decline in rural areas in the past two decades is directly correlated to political extremism and authoritarian trends in American society.
Fattal said that “in the midst of high inflation and a crisis in affordable housing, it is not tenable for us to have this giant corporate landowner possess large swaths of our land and to treat our community members and our forests like digits in an accounting book. It is this kind of insatiable corporate profit-seeking that makes our world more likely to burn in every sense. This benefit event raised some money and some awareness. We are just pitching in what we can to support our community pushing back and fighting for better wages.”