ArborGen, one of the primary companies developing genetically engineered trees, is jointly owned by multinational timber company International Paper. ArborGen reached a settlement with defrauded workers earlier this year.
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Over 130 members of Teamsters Local 284 have been on strike for more than two months against the giant multinational corporation, International Paper (NYSE: IP). Workers’ husbands, wives, sons, daughters and neighbors have walked the picket line in support of the strikers who say the company’s scheduling practices are unsafe and anti-family.
International Paper describes itself as a global leader in packaging and paper with operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa. The strike affects the company’s production facility in Delaware, Ohio. The parties met on Tuesday, July 12, but did not agree on a solution to the labor dispute. Union officials remain optimistic that a negotiated resolution is possible.
“Most Americans would be shocked to learn that a U.S. corporation can get away with forcing workers to stay in a plant for 84 hours a week under the threat of losing their job,” said Paul Suffoletto, President of Local 284. “This isn’t a story out of the history books or something happening in a developing nation thousands of miles away. This is happening in 21st century Delaware, Ohio. It must stop now.”
The unfair labor practice strike was caused by International Paper’s decision to unilaterally implement what it called its “last, best and final offer.” The implemented terms and conditions of employment include the right to schedule and work the Local 284 members up to 84 hours per week, seven days per week, 12 hours per day, under threat of termination. Last week, a hearing officer for the state of Ohio ruled in favor of granting unemployment insurance benefits to affected employees.
Workers say that the company’s scheduling practices lead to unsafe levels of fatigue in the plant that expose them to a greater risk of injury and health problems. Spouses accuse the company of putting families at risk because workers have little time to do anything but sleep when they return home instead of spending time with children and loved ones. The company has also cut off health insurance for workers, spouses and children. Despite the hardship, strikers and their families are not giving up.
“An employee on the job for 84 hours per week is doing the job of two workers,” said Don Mann, Local 284 Recording-Secretary. “Our members want the company to succeed, but not at the expense of their own health and their families’ well-being. The company should schedule workers fairly and efficiently, and, if need be, hire more employees rather than destroy the lives of the current workforce. That would be good for families; Delaware, Ohio; and the company.”