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Management Side
KapStone Workers Reject Offer

Longview, Washington, USA 23 July 2015 -- (From The Longview Daily News) -- KapStone union workers rejected the company's latest contract offer, union officials announced Wednesday night.

About 68 percent of the voting members rejected the offer. Two previous offers were rejected by 99 percent.

The first contract offer was rejected by 99 percent, and the union said the second contract was also overwhelmingly rejected but never released a specific percentage.

About 652 of the union's roughly 800 members cast ballots.

It was not clear whether the action will cause a walkout, but union officials cautioned before the count that rejection of the offer would not automatically trigger a strike.

"We'll see what the vote count is and we'll have discussion on going from there," AWPPW Vice President Greg Pallesen said before the results were known Wednesday.

Voting took place Monday through Wednesday.

Leaders of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 153 declined to offer details about whether the latest contract offer differs significantly from the previous offers.

Other union sources say the new offer includes a $2,2000 signing bonus upon ratification, plus other changes to seniority rules, 401 (k) plans and wage increases. However, the Kaiser Permanente health insurance plan would still be a high deductible one, instead of the existing Kaiser plan mill workers want to maintain.

On Monday, a group of 21 people from at least seven local unions gathered for a 6 a.m. rally in support of Local 153, organized by the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Central Labor Council. Blue and white signs with the union's logo and the slogan "We Support Local 153" have popped up at some local businesses.

Local 153 and KapStone have been negotiating since last year. Mill workers rejected previous company offers that they argued would have increased health insurance costs, changed seniority rules and set limits on box plant workers' ability to transfer to often higher-paying mill positions.

The company had sought to remove Kaiser Permanente health care coverage, pointing out that the insurance plan would force it to pay a 40 percent "Cadillac tax" under the Affordable Care Act. Previous proposals outlined by the company had included a scaled-down, high-deductible Kaiser Permanente plan as a compromise.

Local 153 has not gone on strike since 1978. The company has said it intends to keep the plant running if the union walks out.


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