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Nippon Welcomed by Longview Labor Despite Slightly Mixed History

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According to a report by The Daily News (Longview, Wash., USA) the North Pacific Paper Co. (NORPAC) mill in Longview will be the sole remaining Weyerhaeuser (Federal Way, Wash.) owned paper mill after its deal with Nippon is finalized by the end of the third quarter. This will make Nippon not only a major location in the city, but in Washington overall. The company will now be under an expected level of greater focus by the paper worker's unions. 

Nippon already has a presence in North America. It owns a mill in the same state in Port Angeles, Wash., that makes paper for telephone books and generates biomass energy for sale. It also has subsidiaries in nearby Portland, Ore. (Paper Products Marketing) and Daishowa-Marubeni International in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Port Angeles workers are represented by Association of Western Pulp and Paper workers Local 155. AWPPW also represents hourly workers at the Longview liquid packaging plant. In 2013, about 150 Port Angeles mill workers held a five-day strike when Nippon cut some of what it cited as excessive pay levels and implemented a contract after lengthy negotiations. Eventually the two came together. The company agreed to reinstate original wages and offer retroactive pay, while the union made concessions on health care and wage increases. Eventually, the union accepted a six-year contract that expires in 2019, according to Port Angeles' Peninsula Daily News.
According to National Labor Relations Board records cited in the most recent reports by these two Washington state newspapers noted above, AWPPW Local 155 was said to have filed more than two dozen unfair labor practice charges against Nippon Paper between 2007 and 2014. However, the vast majority were withdrawn, while a few remaining cases were settled without further legal contest or were dismissed entirely.

In Longview, AWPPW represents about 450 hourly employees at the liquid packaging plant, and the union expects its contract to be honored by Nippon based on successor language in the contract. There will be some changes, though, as the union will have to work with Nippon to find equivalent matches for Weyerhaeuser’s company health care insurance and 401(k) plans.

This past Friday evening, when the report was published, AWPPW had yet to have contact with Nippon over terms of the sale, but VP Greg Pallesen is said to be hoping for good relations.

"We’re looking forward to it and hope to have improved labor-management relations with Nippon compared with Weyerhaeuser," Pallesen said. "We’re hoping they’re a good community neighbor."

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