Weyerhaeuser Workers: Not Finished Yet!

As an example of the kind of activity that No War but the Class War committees are involved in, we reproduce here an article from NWBCW Pacific Northwest on the latest developments in the struggle of the Weyerhaeuser workers.(1)

Workers Fight On Despite Sell Out Contracts and Union Bureaucrats! Solidarity With Weyerhaeuser Workers and the 46%ers!

The Pacific Northwest No War But Class War Committee stands in solidarity with all Weyerhauser workers, particularly those who voted no on the bogus contract pushed down their throats by union officials and the Weyerhaeuser corporation on October 29th. Don’t take this sitting down!

  1. We suggest workers begin meeting up with others in your workplace who have opposed the contract and discuss taking further collective action together! Already workers are being forced to work long 10 hour days. While the union plans to sit on its hands the struggle continues for the working class!
  2. We encourage workers to engage in work slowdowns and coordinated sick-outs, and to post anti-contract messaging around the workplace to protest your forced return to work, and to reject attempts by the company to push long overtime hours on workers.
  3. We call on Weyerhaeuser workers across the region to unite into an independent struggle committee outside union and company control, from which workers can self-organize to continue to put pressure on the company for the standard of living they deserve!

The contract passed with a slim margin of 54%, with 46% of workers bitterly rejecting it. Due to the underhanded tactics of union bureaucrats in collaboration with the Weyerhaeuser corporation, one of the largest strikes in over a decade in the Pacific Northwest has been broken, resulting in a miserable sellout contract. Despite a massive propaganda and intimidation campaign by union officials, the company and local media outlets, a large number of workers are beginning to see the controlled opposition (aka the union apparatus) for what it is — just another tool of the companies to thwart effective strike action. In response, workers have already begun to self-organize by forming independent forums from which to voice their opposition. One such forum already boasts over 85 members; however, this is not enough.

Workers need a public collective voice to articulate their interests and demands, independent of the union and the company, from which they can influence their fellow workers and combat the company and union disinformation campaigns. We suggest Weyerhaeuser workers form an independent struggle committee, open to lumber workers across companies and trades. This committee can act as a public voice of workers from the grassroots, issue joint collective statements, and organize opposition tactics. Without an independent organization, workers will always be subject to the manipulation of these institutions which were bought and sold long ago. Half a century of defeats of the working class at the hands of the trade unions demonstrate that the solutions to our problems do not lie with a change of leadership or a different union, but with the self-organization of the working class, free of union, state and company control! The litany of disgraceful acts and deliberate sabotage of the strike by IAM union officials is almost too long to list. To name just a few…

  • Leading up to the vote, union officials and the media broadcasted all over the press announcements of the union coming to a “settlement”. This of course was before the workers themselves ever had a chance to see or vote on the tentative agreement. This makes it clear that for the bureaucrats in the union, the union and the workers themselves are two wholly separate things. The unions negotiate on behalf of the workers with the bosses.
  • Union officials in Longview broke up an informational picket line which was necessary to prevent longshore workers from loading ships with Weyerhaeuser wood.
  • Union officials rejected and encouraged workers not to organize solidarity pickets at Weyerhaeuser main offices, allegedly reporting that they did not want to “ruffle the feathers at corporate”.
  • Most workers were completely unprepared for the strike; many did not learn they were on strike until the day it began.
  • The union did not provide adequate signs or supplies to keep picket lines operational.
  • Red hats in Longview received no strike pay, while red hats in Cottage Grove (where the union president has his power base) did, thus union leaders participated in buying up votes.
  • Areas that were expected to vote pro-agreement, such as Cottage Grove, were put first in the list to vote. Longview and Raymond, expected to vote against the agreement, were put last in line to vote so as to encourage a yes vote.
  • Workers in Longview were observed by union officials while voting — these were the same officials encouraging workers to vote yes.
  • Workers who dissented against the contract and the sell-out actions of union leaders were purged from various group chats by union officials in Longview.
  • Leaders of opposition to the yes vote were also targeted for intimidation and had their internal networks surveilled by IAM.
  • Workers received a paltry strike pay of $150 a week, despite the union receiving millions and millions of dollars in dues over the course of a generation since the last strike.
  • Union leaders held off on calling the strike until the fall, even though many members wanted to strike back in June, when it would have been easier to maintain picket lines (warmer weather, not so close to the holidays).

These issues are not just a matter of poor union leadership. These tactics have been the norm for unions for nearly a century, all across the world. Union leaders routinely manipulate workers to accept contracts that are almost always in the company’s favor. Despite one of the workers’ primary demands being to reject the introduction of new healthcare premiums, the deal struck up by union officials and the company includes new out-of-pocket premiums that are far from affordable. Yet even after over 40 days on the picket lines, workers were willing to keep up the fight. But IAM president Brandon Bryant announced long before the vote that it was time to tuck and run, stating “We think it’s the best we can get at this time,” signaling the beginning of the union’s manipulative campaign to rein in workers for the company.

We win strikes when we inflict maximum economic damage against the owners to force them into negotiating. In order to achieve this, strikes need to be led by workers fighting on the front lines, not by sellout bureaucrats behind a desk! As production stoppages cut into companies’ profits, they typically have a self-interest to negotiate. But if workers are not able to force the company into coming to terms, the company will always refuse. For example, despite the strike, Weyerhaeuser profits have been only modestly affected. Throughout the strike, Weyerhaeuser continued to utilize contract loggers and sell its wood to other sawmills where workers were not striking. Union leadership did nothing to stop this. In addition to this, IAM officials didn’t bother with ensuring that picket lines were manned 24-7 throughout the region. In fact, in some cases they broke up self-organized worker pickets. This is because for government sanctioned unions (all unions who have NLRB contracts), solidarity strikes are illegal. This means that unions can be fined (and thus the bureaucrats that work for them risk losing their jobs) if union members utilize solidarity strikes and become too effective.

Unlike 100 years ago, today the lumber industry employs relatively few workers. Therefore strikers in one industry or within one company have limited numbers to seriously put pressure on the company. To win, workers must begin organizing themselves across trades, companies and industries from the jump. We have to put pressure on companies at multiple points in the supply chain. This is something trade unions can never do, because they are legally barred from organizing sympathy strikes or secondary boycotts. The only alternative is more compromises and sell out contracts. The only way to mount enough pressure on the companies is for workers to self-organize outside of the trade-union model.

We encourage workers to form their own struggle committees, from which they can create their own demands, and to unite with workers across the lumber industry and beyond. Most immediately, we encourage those workers who have been forced to return to work by the union and Weyerhaeuser to keep up the fight by taking the following actions:

  1. Gather with other workers in your workplace who voted no, and begin talking about ways you can agitate to further the struggle.
  2. Engage in work slow-downs, organize coordinated sick-outs if possible, and post agitational content about rejecting the contract around your worksite.
  3. Form an independent struggle committee free from union and company control to be the collective voice for the workers.
NWBCW Pacific Northwest
2 November 2022


(1) For background on the Weyerhaeuser strike, see: Weyerhaeuser Workers Strike Across the Pacific Northwest, Weyerhauser Strike Enters It’s 3rd Week. Show Your Solidarity! and Weyerhaeuser Strike Continues! All Power to the Rank N’ File!

Friday, November 4, 2022