BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson addressed shop stewards, lodge and local leaders, and members of the Wood, Pulp and Paper Council of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (Machinists) at its first Wood, Pulp and Paper Council Conference. The meeting was held in Eugene, Oregon, a state where nearly 50% of its landmass is covered by forests, on 13 to 15 September.
In his keynote speech at the conference banquet, Yuson highlighted the struggles of BWI affiliates, ranging from the efforts of STIEU in Sabah for trade union recognition, the organizing campaigns targeting Chinese construction MNCs by unions in Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa, to the efforts of migrant workers in Qatar for dignity and respect.
Yuson also congratulated the efforts of the Machinists in successfully organizing workers at the IKEA Industry plant in Danville, Virginia and three distribution centers in Savanah, Perryville, and Westhampton. He noted that, “the combination of the Machinists’ organizing drive in Danville and BWI’s global campaign became the format for BWI campaign against multinational companies; militant organizing on the ground accompanied by mobilizing global solidarity.”
In extending solidarity and support to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Irma and recognizing the humanitarian relief efforts of the Machinists, Yuson pledged a solidarity fund of $USD 5,000 to the Machinists’ Disaster Relief Fund. To date, thousands of Machinist members in Texas and the Caribbean have suffered tremendous loss as a result of the two natural disasters.
The Conference brought together the wood, paper, and pulp workers of the Machinists to discuss the changes and the future of the industry, develop concrete strategies to address these changes, as well as exchange ideas on how to strengthen bargaining through establishing individual employer councils. New officers representing the Wood, Pulp and Paper Council were elected at the conference. One of the highlights of the conference was a worksite visit of Weyerhaeuser operations in both the Timberlands in Springfield, Oregon and the Sawmill in Cottage Grove.
Speakers also included members of the Machinist Executive Council–International President Bob Martinez Jr., Secretary–Treasurer Dora Cervantes, General Vice–President Rickey Wallace, and General Vice–President Brian Bryant, as well as Oregon Representative Brad Witt.