RAYMOND, Wash. — Over 1,100 members of International Association of Machinists District W24 struck Weyerhaeuser locations across Oregon and Washington six weeks ago in a fight against increased health care costs and for higher pay. Weyerhaeuser is one of the world’s largest timber companies.
On Oct. 7 strikers at a number of company log yards and mills in Washington and Oregon voted down a second contract offer from Weyerhaeuser by 90%. After further negotiations and three more weeks of strike action the company made some concessions. The third offer was then voted up by 55% Oct. 27. Strikers here told the Militant that no union members had crossed the picket lines.
“The main issue was the bosses’ proposal to raise health care premiums. We should fight for a percent raise increase to cover that,” striker Ron McGough told the Militant at the union hall before the company’s third offer came in.
“In the contract four years ago we got a higher deductible. Now they want us to pay for a percentage of the health care costs and increase the amount we pay by 1% per year,” striker Mark Barnard said. “We could be going backwards.”
“We think it’s the best that we can get at this time,” Brandon Bryant, the union district representative, told workers before the vote.
The agreement that was voted up got rid of the percentage, replacing it with a fixed amount workers will pay toward the health care plan. It includes 14% in wage increases over four years and some additional vacation time, sick leave pay and shift differential pay.
“I voted against the contract proposal,” Barnard told the Militant after the vote. “I thought we could have pushed for more. But we did get the percentage taken out.”
“When we started, the vote against the contract and for the strike was impressive. I’m proud of these kids. The community support is huge,” said Steve Steiger, a union officer and striking worker.
Strike supporter Bethany Barnard said she had posted “Solidarity Sundays” on her Facebook page to get more people to the picket lines. “Facebook shut the page down!”
“We want to thank the numerous people and businesses that have supported our members on the picket lines,” Bryant said in a union statement. “Your boxes of donuts, pizzas, homemade cookies, firewood, handmade picket signs, donations and gas cards inspired our members to hold the line.”