September 13, 2022 - News of a worker strike at various Weyerhaeuser facilities across Oregon and Washington with members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Woodworkers were revealed through early morning phone tips Tuesday. The walkout began at 12:01, one minute after midnight. It includes the facility in Cottage Grove, which employs more than 210 people at this branch.
According to Union sources, Union leaders were presented with two unacceptable offers from Weyerhaeuser and chose to strike as a last-minute option to renegotiate. Wage increases that were proposed by Weyerhaeuser were concerning for Union leaders because the burden that laid on the backs of its workers, is essentially being dismissed with additional cuts.
Weyerhaeuser reported its 2021 financial performance as one of the strongest on record. In 2021, it generated $10.2 billion in net sales and employed approximately 9,200 people who serve customers worldwide, according to the company’s website.
Workers of Weyerhaeuser facilities across the Pacific Northwest said they are disappointed because they feel strongly that Weyerhaeuser should be sharing its record increase in net earnings with the employees whose labor made the record profits possible.
Details were revealed from local Union member Joe Bethke, an electrician at Weyerhaeuser, that Weyerhaeuser offered a marginal contract raise in their original proposal, while cutting a week of paid vacation from seasoned workers and giving it to employees that have been with the company for under two years. Bethke also revealed that Weyerhaeuser also offered to cover only part of their insurance premiums.
The Union alleged that Weyerhaeuser was trying to cut employees' overall take-home pay and benefits, all while making record profits when employees worked through the pandemic and the fires of 2020/21. Those details have not been verified by Weyerhaeuser representatives. Weyerhaeuser Company is one of the world's largest private owners of timberlands, controlling approximately 11 million acres in the U.S. and managing additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada.
The company released a statement on Sept. 13.
"We have been formally engaged in collective bargaining with IAM since May, and we have made several offers related to wages and benefits," said Denise Merle, senior vice president and chief administration officer for Weyerhaeuser. "After we presented our final offer, IAM workers at multiple sites went on strike late last night. While we are very disappointed in their decision to walk out, we are committed to supporting our employees and negotiating in good faith with union representatives. We are prepared to continue discussions to produce a contract that is beneficial for employees and sustainable for the company across business cycles."
Weyerhaeuser will continue working closely with customers and other partners in the region to minimize supply disruptions.
Negotiations between Weyerhaeuser and striking Union workers are likely to continue this week; The Sentinel will provide more detail as they develop.