Press Release — Thursday, September 29, 2022
“Workers must stand together on the basis that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ — a slogan that has been used in Pacific Northwest lumber strikes going back more than a century. The labor movement must do everything possible to stand with Weyerhaeuser workers and help escalate the fight to win a strong contract… I am proud to donate $1,000 from my City Council salary solidarity fund to the Weyerhaeuser workers’ strike fund.”
SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee, released the following statement in solidarity with striking Weyerhaeuser workers in Washington and Oregon:
“Socialist Alternative and my office stand in solidarity with the over 1,100 Weyerhaeuser workers in Washington and Oregon – members of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers of District W24 – who are on strike for a fair contract that includes affordable healthcare, inflation-adjusted living wages, adequate vacation time, and improved retirement benefits. Weyerhaeuser’s executives and major shareholders have pocketed record-breaking profits on the backs of the sawmill workers, log yard scalers, mechanical loggers, and log truck drivers whose labor created the wealth in the first place.
“Inflation has soared by 9 percent in the Puget Sound area in the last year, making everything from gas to groceries more expensive. Weyerhaeuser has offered only a 5 percent raise. On top of this de facto pay cut in the context of unprecedented inflation, the company is demanding that workers begin paying premiums for their healthcare for the first time in decades – healthcare for which workers already pay high deductibles. The company has also refused to improve retirement benefits and is demanding cuts in vacation time.
“Can the company afford a better offer? Without a doubt. Weyerhaeuser’s profits more than tripled in 2021 to $2.6 billion. That works out to more than $275,000 per employee, just in profit! Weyerhaeuser’s CEO Devin Stockfish has taken more than his share, paying himself $12.3 million last year, 166 times the average pay of an employee.
“In addition to massive profits, Weyerhaeuser has secured hundreds of millions of dollars of tax breaks from both state and federal government. In 2008, Democrats in Congress passed a huge tax break for the timber industry, which cut Weyerhaeuser’s taxes by $182 million. In multiple years, the company has paid no taxes at all, most recently in 2019. In Washington state, the Democrat-controlled legislature has routinely shielded big corporations like Weyerhaeuser, Boeing, and Amazon from taxes, while making working people foot the bill in the form of regressive sales taxes, car tabs, and property taxes. Weyerhaeuser workers, of course, have not seen any benefit from these shameful corporate tax giveaways.
“Workers must stand together on the basis that “an injury to one is an injury to all” – a slogan that has been used in Pacific Northwest lumber strikes going back more than a century. The labor movement must do everything possible to stand with Weyerhaeuser workers, and help escalate the fight to win a strong contract – including mobilizing union members to picket lines, passing public resolutions in support of the Weyerhaeuser workers’ strike, and organizing public rallies in support of workers’ demands.
“As a Seattle City Councilmember, my salary is $147,000 per year. As a socialist and a working-class representative, I take home only the average worker’s wage, and donate the rest of my salary after taxes to a Solidarity Fund to support workers’ struggles. I am proud to donate $1,000 from this fund to the Weyerhaeuser workers’s strike fund. I urge unions, union leaders, and elected officials to do the same.
“Weyerhaeuser’s refusal to offer a fair contract is yet another example of the exploitation that working people face under capitalism – workers produce billions in profits, yet bosses reward us by cutting wages and benefits. We need a strong, militant strike that shuts down all production and opposes any attempts by the bosses to resume operations.
“I urge unions and all community members to join my office at a rally with Weyerhaeuser workers at 11 am today, Thursday, September 29, at company headquarters, 220 Occidental Ave S.
“See you on the picket line!”