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Caravan hits Kapstone customers to save workers’ healthcare

AWPPW-logoThe following is from the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers:

(Aug. 4, 2015) — This week workers from the Kapstone paper mill in Longview are organizing a Justice Caravan in an effort to save their healthcare and other benefits and demand that the company stop disregarding environmental laws, which protect local rivers and demand the company stop disregarding labor laws.

The caravan will visit Kapstone customers in Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle. It stopped at rallies in Longview on Monday and will stop in Portland’s Pioneer Plaza on Wednesday at 11 a.m. and at the Environmental Protection Agency regional office in Seattle on Thursday at 1 p.m.

“Kapstone’s efforts to cut to our healthcare coverage impacts the entire community,” said Kurt Gallow, President of Local 153 of the Association of Pulp and Paper Workers Union, which represents around 800 workers at the plant. “If they get away with weakening our healthcare other workers will soon face the same cuts.”

AWPPW Representative John Minor spokesperson for Local 153 negotiations said, “Kapstone came to the bargaining table with a callous disregard for fairness. They demand concessions, committed numerous ULPs (unfair labor practice) violations, and they attack seniority.”

Serious environmental issues exist at the pulp and paper mill site. Kapstone siphons almost 30 million gallons a day from the drought-stricken Columbia River. The Mill’s water intake pumps are allegedly sucking in and killing endangered fish species. Kapstone’s long-expired water pollution permit is currently up for renewal. That antiquated permit allows the Mill to discharge overheated, 90 degree, acidic waste water back into the Columbia, harming the salmon runs. A public water permit hearing has been requested and Kapstone workers are inviting a number of environmental groups to participate at the hearing. Sandra Davis, VP Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community says “Our organization supports Kapstone workers in their demand for a better environment and for quality health care.”

A strike appears imminent at the plant, which means that Kapstone risk losing millions of dollars, losing its hard working dedicated highly skilled workforce, and losing community support.

“It doesn’t look good regarding the prospect of reaching a fair agreement,” states Greg Pallesen, AWPPW Vice President. “While the workforce has made considerable movement Kapstone is not showing any willingness to uphold previous promises and bargain a fair and equitable labor agreement. At this point in time a strike seems all but certain.”

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