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Workers offer bargaining support

by Terri Ivie
| April 24, 2010 9:00 PM

USK, Wash. - Unionized workers and their families recently held a demonstration at Ponderay Newsprint to protest the lost of benefits and other pay.

The workers are part of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union Local 422 and also wanted to show their collaborated effort for bargaining support for their first union contract.

The AWPPW was formed in September 2009 and covers operations, technical services and the utility crew. Over 90 production workers are members but electrical workers are not in a union.

Ponderay Newsprint is the largest private employer in Pend Oreille County with 175 workers, which is actually down from a high of over 200 employees in the 1990s.

Workers said they have already had their 401(k) retirement benefit match reduced and lost sick time before the union formation. Bonuses were also eliminated as well as overtime incentives. Insurance premiums have risen and workers have not received a cost of living raise in over three years.

Kevin Bush, an operations technician and president of AWPPW, said the workers want to know why so many concessions are needed if the company is making a profit. They also want security that the company can't keep taking things at will. He also stated Ponderay Newsprint officials are asking for wage reductions ranging from 7-14 percent and cuts to disability.

"We want the company to get the message that by having employees take concessions that they're impacting the community as well," Bush said.

Ponderay Newsprint Company said it is continuing to negotiate with the union, but would not discuss the details regarding negotiations with the media.

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