Northwest Wobs Call for Support to Keep L-P Mill Open

By Darryl Cherney - Industrial Worker, March 1989.

"Activists have always touted that sustained yield equals sustained jobs. Therefore, by keeping the mills open forever, we would logically have to ensure forests forever to keep them going."

IWW and EF! member Darryl Cherney and other Northwest Wobs and radical ecodefenders have joined forces to take on the anti-labor, anti-environmentalist Louisiana Pacific lumber corporation and to prevent the corporation's planned closure of a Potter Valley mill in April. Cherney has made an important 12-point proposal to Gladys Simmons, a Public Affairs Officer of the Louisiana Pacific Corporation Cherney, who is a prominent environmental activist and songwriter, says that he is tired of the mainstream press trashing environmentalists as being anti-labor and of mill owners who blame environmentalists for mill layoffs and shut downs. He points to one industry spokesman at a gathering of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce in mid-December who was quoted as saying that environmentalists are making life difficult for the timber companies as they spend time and money fighting lawsuits instead of spending time and money in the forest cutting down trees.

With the second highest nationwide timber cut being reported (12.6 billion board feet) and Mendocino County reporting nearly triple the timber revenues from last year's cut on National Forest land, Cherney finds it "repulsive that industry is blaming environmentalists for shortages that over logging is creating." Cherney comments: "While MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber bemoans four lawsuits filed against them as anti-labor, they have in fact increased their workforce by 33% and nearly tripled their cut over 1985 levels. Another case is L-P's closing of the Potter Valley mill which doubled its shift only five years ago."

Cherney asks: "When will northcoast citizens learn that artificially increased production leads to massive busts shortly thereafter? With production and profits at an all time high, industry's criticism of environmentalists can only mean one thing: the bust is well on its way."

Cherney likens the industry's complaints about environmentalists to "a baby crying about a booboo on its little finger. L-P has million dollar publicity budgets, dozens of attorneys on retainer, high paid lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington, Representative Bosco and Assemblyman Hauser in their pockets, a stranglehold on the workforce, and ownership of millions of acres of timberland. Should a lawsuit tie up 1/10th of one percent of their timber base, you can hear them howl for miles."

"I'm asking environmentalists to fight to keep L-P's Potter Valley mill open." said Cherney. His proposal which has already challenged the industry's traditional public relations defense, has also challenged environmental circles, and has been greeted with enthusiasm from members of the Sierra Club, the Northcoast Greens, the Mendocino Environmental Center, the Wilderness Coalition, Save the North fork and the International Woodworkers of America.

Cherney also believes that workers are coming to see the importance of environmental concerns. At a recent Earth First! demonstration, MAXXAM/PL actually imported counter demonstrators from other companies because their own employees, who are currently attempting to buy back the company, would not defend the policies of corporate raider Charles Hurwitz.

Cherney mailed his pitch to L-P spokesperson. Glennys Simmons and has some words of concern about her job: "Glennys will be one of the first to go when L-P closes their Ukiah mill. They already have a PR person, Shep Tucker, in Humboldt County. Besides, PR is one of L-P's lowest priorities. Look how they announced layoffs just before Christmas, after many people had begun their shopping," said Cherney. "L-P's treatment of their employees is reflective of their forest management. They can't tell us whether they can keep their people employed four months from now, and they expect us to trust them with long range forest management."

Text of Cherney's Proposal to Louisiana Pacific Corporation

Dear Glennys,

As promised, here is my first proposal to Louisiana Pacific regarding keeping the Potter Valley Mill open. I would appreciate it if you or someone from your outfit could address the points and questions below so that I can relay to my associates whether or not Louisiana Pacific is even interested in keeping its mills open in Mendocino County and in Northern California, in general. While I'm sure you understand there is a certain public relations value in what I am proposing, let me fully assure you that this is not a ploy. I have encountered nothing short of unrestrained enthusiasm from many of the top activists I have approached thus far. It has always been the position of most activists that a healthy forest and forest industry is our goal. So, tell me what you think:

(1) Let's keep all L-P mills open forever, with a sustained number of jobs. Let's focus on the Potter Valley mill for starters.

(2) Currently, zero acreage is tied up by lawsuits and no down time has been suffered from burn salvage appeals in Mendocino County by your company. Could you please explain why your company feels that these are responsible for your mill closure?

(3) Whole logs are being exported overseas. Does your outfit export and how many mill jobs could be saved if you didn't?

(4) A coalition of timber experts is being assembled to present L-P with suggestions for keeping Potter Valley mill open. It consists of loggers, mill workers, carpenters, furniture makers, environmentalists, public relations experts and labor relations people. Will you open your mill and your books for this group, after you have met with them and approve of them, of course?

(5) Where do you plan on taking the equipment in Potter Valley, should the mill close?

(6) What bearing does the toxic dump have on the mill closure. Could you provide a detailed plan for its clean up?

(7) John Lewellan of the Greens is developing a 700-year forest plan. Do you have any long term plan that you are willing to share? You've stated that taking Trout Creek out of production deprived Potter Valley of three' months worth of work. Could you please address employment with a somewhat longer-term vision?

(8) Are your short notice mill closures actually secret long-range decisions, and if they are not, can you tell me if our forests are managed with the same short-term approach?

(9) Can you make public an inventory of your Mendocino timberlands so we can see how much you actually have left? As L-P is a public company who logs a good deal on public land, wouldn't it be true that you have some responsibility to report to the public?

(10) L-P has vigorously complained about the bidding process. What is L-P's opinion of the free enterprise system? As you are requesting relief on stumpage prices in the face of diminishing forests and increased demand, both of which you have created, is it not contrary to the capitalistic system you espouse to ask for a public dole out? Also, do not many of the timber operators who outbid you take their trees to your mills to be logged, thereby not affecting your mill production as much as you claim?

(11) Is L-P interested in growing quality saw logs that do not require toxic glues and preservatives, like wafer board and plywood do?

(12) While Joe Wheeler has accused "tree huggers" and such as being lawbreakers, how do you explain L-Ps superfund listings and lost civil lawsuits as they relate to L-P's ability to abide by the law?

I am looking forward to hearing your response...For the working men and women, I remain,
Darryl Cherney.