AWPPW distributes flyer calling for protests of contractural restrictions keeping the mill from being purchased by another paper company

GARY ALLEN - The Westrock newsprint mill was shuttered in November 2015 and its employees dismissed in January 2016. The union representing 180 of the 220-man work force is calling on those former employees to picket the long vacant mill Tuesday and a proviso on a potential sale that forbids the buyer from producing paper products at the site.

The union representing the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs when Westrock shuttered the Newberg newsprint mill in January 2016, are calling on those former employees, their families and the general citizenry to picket the long vacant mill on Tuesday.

In a flyer distributed last week, the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) recognized that Westrock has bought and closed a number of mills across the country in the past several years, including in Newberg and Ohio.

"Westrock's been buying up competitors' mills only to shut them down," said the flyer, distributed April 17 by AWPPW President Gregory Pallesen. "They do this to drive down supply and therefore drive up prices for the product that they are producing."

In addition, Palleson touched on word of a potential sale of the Newberg mill and that "Westrock won't sell the mill to any business that will re-open it as a paper mill. They've taken the extreme and job-killing step of setting up a sales agreement that contractually extracts from any buyer the promise not to restart the mill."

The union quoted from an internal memo from Bert Collins, Westrock's director of facilities, which said the sale on the mill is expected to close May 5. The memo also briefly laid out a strategy for insuring the sale of the mill wouldn't represent a threat to Westrock's business:

"The paper machines in the mill must be destroyed and not put back into use as a condition of sale," Collins wrote.

Palleson argued that jobless former Westrock employees could benefit from the sale of the mill to another paper company, and that Westrock's actions to prevent another paper company from locating in Newberg is wrong.

Attempts to contact Collins and Westrock Director of Corporate Communications John Pensec were unsuccessful as of the time of this posting Sunday afternoon.

The picket at the mill, 1301 Wynooski Street, is slated for 2 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Join us at the picket where we'll demand Westrock change its tune and be open to selling in a manner that makes it possible to bring these jobs back!" the flyer concluded.


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