Mill workers protest possible contractors

At least 100 local MeadWestvaco union members have been demonstrating in front its Cottonton, Ala. plant every morning since Monday, calling for a contract agreement amidst ongoing negotiations.

The union workers have agreed to keep the plant running while demonstrations go on outside in the morning. Three MeadWestvaco union groups — one maintenance workers union and two production workers unions, totalling 557 members — will protest jointly between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. until Friday.

MeadWestvaco's Cottonton Mahrt operations — which include a forestry group, paper and saw mills — employ about 950 people. The unions demonstrating represent employees at the paper mill.

Robert McClellan, MeadWestvaco maintenance worker, said the issue for his colleagues was the possibility that the packaging solutions firm may contract its maintenance work out.

"Our major fear is job security," said McClellan, who represents MeadWestvaco's local 155-member maintenance workers union. "We do not wish the jobs to be contracted out. We actually feel the company is going in the wrong direction with this."

Roz Durden, local MeadWestvaco communications manager, said it was "not our preference" to provide comment on negotiations.

"The company will continue to meet with union representatives to bargain in good faith to reach a mutual agreement on a labor contract," Durden said.

Contracting jobs out is also a concern for the two production workers unions at the local mill.

Dennis Redding, a team leader and machine operator at MeadWestvaco, said he was concerned with scope of job language within their contract. He said he wants to make sure contractors are not given the right to an entire job. Usually, if his crew cannot handle a job, they still get to do preparation and clean-up work.

"That has always been a source of work for my people," he said. "I'm all about keeping the work in the area . . . If they could fashion the language to make sure my people have the work that they have always had, that's all I need.”

MeadWestvaco is a Glen Allen, Va.-based packaging solutions firm with clients in the industries of cosmetics and personal care, health care and pharmaceuticals, food and beverage and more. It has locations in more than 25 states, operates in more than 30 countries and has more than 24,000 employees worldwide.

The Cottonton mill produces paper board, which is converted to packaging for frozen foods, cereals, beverage containers, electronic hardware and more.

Read more of this story in Thursday’s Ledger-Enquirer.