Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Water Board does about face! Places lien on Evergreen!

Yesterday, in public at Eureka City Chambers, I asked the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Board to keep the water flowing at Evergreen and reconsider a lien against the plant until their next regularly scheduled meeting Jan. 15th. A motion was made and carried to do just that.

This morning I was made aware that the Water District did in fact place a lien against Evergreen! How can a public agency make a motion and vote unanimously in favor of the motion and then go counter to the decision? Not good public policy. I hope this does not hinder a potential sale.

I do think this water board is very well balanced and level headed in their decisions. I hope they were not given poor counsel concerning this abrupt turnaround. I feel the board should have had another special meeting to make this decision publicly.

The reason for the quick lien on Evergreen was the discovery through Bob Simpson that a first line lien against Evergreen has been placed by South Coast Lumber Co out of Brookings.

This is just another hill in this never ending roller coaster ride.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Secure are Employee Benefits after Bankruptcy?

Safeguards vary in hard times for job benefits. Once you have read the article you can see how frail employee rights are.

Eileen Ambrose, Baltimore Sun
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is your 401(k) secure if your employer has a cash flow problem? Can the company's creditors make a claim on your pension fund? What happens to health insurance if the company goes out of business?

Employees have some protections, even if their employer files for bankruptcy. Here's a rundown:

401(k): Rest assured, 401(k) money is held within a trust and your employer can't dip into it. And an employer's creditors also can't stake a claim against the 401(k), or a traditional pension, either.

But there is some room for hanky-panky.

Your employer is supposed to turn your contributions over to the trust as quickly as administratively possible, and anything longer than seven business days is usually frowned upon by the U.S. Department of Labor, says Rick Meigs, president of 401(k)Helpcenter.com.

When cash-strapped employers don't forward workers' contributions to the plan, it is often because they are using the money to run the business or make payroll, Meigs says. The Labor Department will go after employers for doing this.

Check your quarterly statement or account online to make sure your contribution is deposited in the plan. If it isn't, contact regulators at (866) 444-3272.

Bradford Campbell, assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits, says that such cases are more numerous in hard economic times, but they are still uncommon. Out of nearly half a million 401(k)s, his office investigated about 1,000 such incidents last year and recovered $25 million.

Rules for when an employer makes its matching contribution are different. The match often goes into the plan along with workers' contributions.

But companies can make their match in a lump sum after filing taxes for the year, says Robert Christenson, a benefits lawyer in Atlanta. With filing extensions, 2008 matching contributions can be made well into 2009, he says.

On top of that, employer contributions are often discretionary, allowing the company to suspend the match when times are tough.

But the biggest risk in times like these is your 401(k) investments. And there's no protection against losses when markets fall.

Traditional pension: "It's probably the safest of all," Christenson says. "Unlike a 401(k), the investment risk is on the company."

But pension promises can be broken.

While any pension benefits you've accrued to date are protected, an employer can change the plan formula going forward, says Barbara Schlaff, a Baltimore benefits lawyer.

Many employers also have frozen costly pension plans, Schlaff says. Some exclude new hires from a plan, while others won't allow workers to accrue additional benefits after the freeze sets in, she says.

A company can terminate a pension. If it does, the employer must fully fund the plan. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will take over a plan if an employer is in deep financial trouble, usually bankruptcy, and can't afford to fully fund a terminated plan.

For plans terminated next year, the maximum annual benefit will be $54,000 - up $2,250 from this year - for people retiring at 65. Your benefit will be less if you retire earlier.

Insurance: This benefit is less secure.

Companies usually reserve the right to terminate or reduce health benefits at any time.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act generally enables you to continue coverage under an employer's plan if you're laid off, although you'll pay the full cost. But if your employer goes out of business, there is no COBRA coverage.

If a defunct employer had an affiliated company with insurance, you can get COBRA coverage through that, Christenson says. Or, if that's not an option, you could join a spouse's group plan without having to wait for open enrollment, says Amy Danise, editor of Insure.com.

Life insurance also is at risk. "If you're laid off, leaving a job, quit or terminated, group life doesn't go with you," Danise says.

Wages and severance: Sometimes severance is not an ironclad guarantee but merely a company practice or a perk that employers can change at will.

If your employer files for bankruptcy owing you money, though, you become a priority creditor. You can file a claim, with priority given to the first $10,950 in unpaid wages, vacation and severance.

If your benefits are part of a union contract, your employer can't eliminate them without negotiating with the union. That's true if the employer is in bankruptcy, too. But if talking doesn't work and the company can show the court that the union won't accept a reasonable proposal, the contract can be rejected.

Evergreen Potential Buyer Identified! Water Board Extends Services until Jan.15th!

Former Louisiana Pacific Western Division General Manager Bob Simpson came forward at today's Special Water Board meeting and identified himself as the new potential buyer of the Pulp Mill. He asked for the board to be patient and said he would have better information to present the Water Board at it's Jan. 15th meeting. His request was granted. He also said another potential buyer has been going through escrow since Oct. to buy the mill, so there is somewhat of a race.

Bob was at our plant when we achieved our Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) status and had the affluent line extended to a mile and a quarter out. He knows our operations and the risks and rewards. It was good to hear him say that he wants to keep the plant locally owned and focus on Domestic partnerships in making paper products. And I believe he was the one who endowed LP property for the Cutten ball fields. This might be a good fit.

The meeting turned out more positive in that the water is still flowing and two potential buyers are in the quick mode of purchasing the plant!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bearer of bad news. Evergreen broke. Water bill due. People unpaid. China Company gets away with cut and running.

There will be yet another "Special Water Board Meeting." 9am Tuesday Dec. 30th. Eureka City Chambers. Don't look for Evergreen to pull another "Rabbit out of the Hat." They are now 13 million dollars in debt and a recent potential buyer backed out of the deal with no new prospective buyers on the horizon. So Chinese company Lee and Man has basically raped our natural resources and ripped off local United States workers with little repercussion. That is basically how I see it.

Sure you workers aren't ready to talk about an "Employee Stock Options Plan?" Or ready to bury this mill and move on? Please post your thoughts.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Humboldt the Frozen Tundra? Second floor temp 47 degrees in the house!

Just arrived home from holidays at Sac Town. My sister Michelle hosted about 30 for a sit down Turkey and Prime Rib dinner. Awesome sis. When we came home I went upstairs and the Temperature probe said 47.3 degrees! BRRRRR! This last year has been COLD! We have broken so many record lows this year. But I am told this proves global warming. HMMMM.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry X-Mas to all, and to all a good night!!

Whatever your belief, have a good holiday on the King of King and Lord of Lord's.

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Evergreen Insurance stuff.

Good story in the TS today: Evergreen workers' insurance gets cut. Only thing I thought pertinent that was missing is that workers have to pay for the COBRA plan. It is not a gift from the company. By terminating the program, there is no "group" advantage in price structuring.

If you are an Evergreen worker still looking for insurance options contact Jeff Pauli at 445-5496. Diane Ben has also offered to explain options at 444-3094 ext. 7609. Or check out Temporary Health Insurance online.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Evergreen terminates all Group Health Insurance Coverage including Cobra!

Workers at Evergreen were given notice that they have no insurance options due to:

"As a result of economic conditions Evergreen Pulp is no longer financially able to support sponsorship of the Health and Welfare programs afforded to employees, dependants, retirees and COBRA participants. As a result, Evergreen Pulp is terminating its group Medical, Dental and Vision plans. With this the option to Buy Back coverage under Evergreen Pulp's group Medical, Dental and Vision plans will terminate at midnight on December 31, 2008 when the group's plan is canceled."

What is COBRA? The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) requires most employers with group health plans to offer employees the opportunity to continue temporarily their group health care coverage under their employer's plan if their coverage otherwise would cease due to termination, layoff, or other change in employment status (referred to as "qualifying events") How long must COBRA continuation coverage be available to a qualified beneficiary? Up to 18 months for covered employees, as well as their spouses and their dependents, when workers otherwise would lose coverage because of a termination or reduction of hours.

What is going on!?!? I wish there were better communications between Evergreen and the workers. Here are some highlights or low lights, however you want to look at it:
Evergreen Pulp asks for reduction of hourly workforce of 20 workers and union tentatively agreed to concept.

Evergreen Pulp sends out WARN notice and announces shutdown that week.

Evergreen Pulp pays employees monies owed but no WARN act or Labor Agreed severance pay.

Evergreen's Parent company Lee and Man announces the selling of Evergreen to Virgin Island company called "Worthy Pick." Evergreen CEO says Evergreen is just "restructuring" finances publicly.

California Redwood (CR) and other vendors locally put lien on Evergreen assets and Humboldt County Judge Brown hold up shipment of pulp to Lee Kwok. CR claim that Lee Kwok, a subsidiary of Lee and Man owes Evergreen Pulp 20 million dollars that ended up in Lee and Man's coffers. Some agreement financially is met so ship can leave.

Eight hourly workers find out they have no paycheck coming for services rendered. Payroll has lien on by CR per judgment again of Brown. Workers are asked to work on with hopes of being paid the following week. They agreed and worked on, only to not be paid the next week. Walked off job so they could collect unemployment. Management running operational equipment.

$150,000 October Water bill comes due and DG Energy buys $80,000 logs they claim not need to help Evergreen pay the bill. CR pulls lien temporarily to allow transaction to pay the bill and pay hourly workers 3 weeks pay. They are still owed thousands of dollars to this day. Jim Lund assures water board that David Tsang is still CEO and they are in contact with China. (Lee and Man)

Evergreen somehow pays $75,000 amount due on water bill and now is in arrears for November.

Evergreen announces the cancellation of their Group Health Insurance Coverage.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Evergreen pays water bill!

At least for October. Who paid? Got me. November is due soon and it may exceed $200,000. Union meeting Wednesday the 17th at 4pm. AWPPW Union President and California Area Representative to be present. My last meeting with the gavel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Budweiser American Ale sucks! Top 5 IPA's.

I was waiting for Robin to meet me at Blue Lake Casino for dinner and stopped off at the bar and ordered the new Budweiser American Ale. (Dinner was rotten and man, have prices went up at Blue Lake Casino!) I will give it a 1 out 10 rating. Not worth drinking. Flat and tasteless.

Here are my top 5 India Pale Ales (IPA):

5. Eel River Brewing Company India Pale Ale-Nothing special to report. I have not had an Eel River beer in awhile.

4. 6R - Six Rivers Brewery- IPA is some strong stuff. I little bitter but pleasant.

3. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- Smooth and consistent, but just missing something.

2. Mad River Brewery Steelhead Extra Pale Ale- Very drinkable, but watch out for that kick!

1. Lost Coast Brewery Pale Ale-The best of the best. Silky smooth and just just a enjoyable beer. Best drank at Lost Coast with their hot wings.

Deschutes Inversion IPA and Widmer BrothersBroken Halo IPA may be worthy of a try.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kohl's coming to Bayshore soon!

Kohl's, Forever 21 going into Mervyns sites. Kohl's owns over 1,000 stores in 48 states. When do the pickets go up to fight this "big box" coming to Eureka? If we say no to Home Depot or Wal Mart, why will we turn the other way to Kohl's?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Local Political ball keeps bouncing! Who's on first?

Looks like Mike Thompson is still a top contender to head Interior. Thompson may be appointed by President Elect Barack Obama soon. But then what happens locally? The governor will ask for a special election for the 1st Congressional District. Leading contender for that position will most likely be 1st District elect Assembly person Wesley Chesbro. He is the most high profile viable candidate, but I am sure others will be shaken from the woodwork.

Who will take over for Wes? If an election is held for this seat, I am sure there will be plenty of contenders. I have already heard Chris Kerrigan's name brought up and I am sure others are chomping at the bit.

As far as replacing Frank Jager of the Humboldt County Coroners Office, the BOS has decided to have the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, specifically Sherrif Gary Philp fill the position.

In the Northern Humboldt Union High School District, one position on the board is needed to be filled now that recently elected City Council member Shane Brinton has taken office. Who might be in the running for this position? Mike Harvey, Ross Miller and Dan Johnson are possibilities.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Water Board votes to supply water to Evergreen for discount price. New owner or potential owners do not surface.

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District voted to accept a partial payment of $80,000 to be paid by DG Energy Solutions of Fairhaven for logs they are buying from Evergreen tomorrow. California Redwood is foregoing a lien on Evergreen property for just this transaction. (Why couldn't Cal Red do the same thing to allow workers to be paid?)

Evergreen has agreed to pay the other $75,000 by next Tuesday after finalizing a financial transaction that will allow for more funds to be dispersed. Jim Lund was not at liberty to discuss the situation due to lack of information or confidentiality.

So we still do not know for sure who the new owners of the plant are.

This is putting the water district in a tough spot to do long term planning for the water district. I hope this all plays out soon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Water Board Shutting off Evergreen water? New buyer to come forward? Why didn't the workers think of a physical takeover?

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District will be holding a special meeting tomorrow morning at 9am at Eureka City Hall to decide what to do about the past due water bill of Evergreen's. Be there to see firsthand what is up.

Supposedly a new prospective buyer of the pulp mill will be coming forward this week. And it most likely be domestic! Stay tuned.

Republic Windows Workers losing jobs take over plant. The workers in the plant are mad because they were not paid their Warn Act money or their severance. (Sound familiar?)Republican Window makes the claim they can not pay because Bank of America will not give them credit. But taxpayers bailed out B of A to the tune of 25 billion dollars!

"Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."

Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, "You got bailed out, we got sold out."

What is going on in our country and how can we fix it? Let us hope for the best for Obama and his new administration to repair this mess.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Humboldt County Job Market: Where Hope and Optimism go to die!

The Job Market at 4th and K in Eureka is the place you need to go to shop for a new job. Since I am currently unemployed I wanted to use the services provided there to see what employment opportunities were available. When I walked in I was surprised to see many cubicles and quarenteed/roped off areas. Bad Feng Shui for sure. Need something to break up the negative "chi."

There is a machine as you entered that needed a card swiped to use services. I just wanted to look at the job listings and had looked at the map on their brochure that shows where the services are located in the building......sans the barriers. There was nothing in the brochure about having to have a special "card" to swipe in and out. So I waited in line to talk to the receptionist. She seemed nice enough when it was my turn. I said I wanted to look at the job listings and asked what I needed to do. She said I needed an card and handed me a clip board with paper work to fill out. I filled out the first page and saw on the second page a highlighted area in bold that said, "If you are over 18 years of age, you do not need to fill out this page." So I took the paper work back. She looked it over and said, "You did not sign the second page!" I pointed out the highlighted area that said I wouldn't need to. She again told me to sign the second page. I again pointed out the highlighted area quote. And she smiled smugly and said, "I need you to sign the second page." I again expressed my angst about the verbiage and signed the bottom so I could complete the process. She then gave me a card to swipe through their machine and made it clear I needed to use it. I then asked her to point out the job notifications. She pointed out to a wall of job listings, then she said, "to the right of the window" naturally I looked right and she said, "Not over there! to the right of the window!" I reached out my right hand and pointed. "This is my right!" She replied, "No. Right of the window!" There are plenty of windows in the room. I finally walked away hands up, not wanting confrontation. I spent a few minutes watching other people in the room equally frustrated and just left disgusted.

I shared this story with my fellow workers last union meeting and asked of their experiences at the Job Market. Just so happens that a long time employee was the next in line behind me went through the same thing and thought it was funny that I covered the same scenario he went through! So why did this receptionist put us through this? It is bad enough that us long time workers have been thrown into this process of unemployment. Why not have some compassion for displaced workers, instead of belittling or messing with them.

Any other stories out there to share? Please feel free.

The workers of Evergreen are highly skilled specialist employees that can make pulp in the most environmentally conscience way possible. May we go back to work in order soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

California Redwood playing hardball with Evergreen Pulp.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge J. Michael Brown allowed a RIGHT TO ATTACH ORDER AND ORDER FOR ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF ATTACHMENT AFTER HEARING to California Redwood after making judgement that Evergreen failed to prove that all the property described in plaintiff's application for exemption from attachment.

The court orders that California Redwood is allowed to attach asses ts for the amount of $321,210. The writ of attachment is for ANY PROPERTY OF A DEFENDANT (Evergreen) WHO IS NOT A NATURAL PERSON FOR WHICH A METHOD OF LEVY IS PROVIDED.

This means that the DEFENDANT (Evergreen) SHALL TRANSFER TO THE LEVING OFFICER POSSESSION OF THE FOLLOWING PROPERTY IN DEFENDANT'S (California Redwood) POSSESSION: To the extent necessary to satisfy the amount secured (i.e., $321,210: Accounts Receivable, chattel paper and general intangibles arising out of defendant's (California Redwood) trade and business; equipment; inventory (wood chips, logs and pulp by placement of a keeper); and deposit accounts.

So Evergreen did not have the ability to pay employees their rightful wages because of the need to make California Redwood whole first. Not fair to the workers. But all of these transactions only are good for who? Right. The lawyers. They are getting their pay or they wouldn't be doing these maneuvers.

Mind you, the above is my synapse of the court document. The case is well over 100 pages thick and growing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Evergreen Pulp busted!

Workers at Evergreen Pulp were thrown a reality shock. Evergreen has not met payroll. They asked hourly workers to work in hope that they will be paid. Not going to happen. Next court case is set Jan 13th at 8:30am Courtroom 4.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Current and Future West Coast Ports Economically Feasible?

Ship cargo volume slumping at West Coast ports and it does not look good for the future.

Michael Jacob, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in San Francisco, has bought into the idea the West Coast faces daunting structural problems. His trade association represents 60 maritime terminal operators and ocean carriers. "In the long term, we are seeing the threat of all kinds of issues - issues on steroids," he said. These include "the lack of freight-supporting infrastructure," meaning highway and rail improvements as well as improved port facilities; and pricing, due to fuel, environmental costs, port container fees, and the costs associated with congestion, said Jacob. "Everyone has environmental issues," he said, "but we have them in spades." In addition, Jacob says that some shippers are choosing an alternative route around California, "investing somewhere else." He added, "We are actually on the front end of a long-term structural change of business models where people are building their supply chains around California" for goods not destined for California.

While west coast Ports are having drastically lower shipping numbers, east coast ports are gaining. The Port of Savannah has passed The Port of Oakland as the 4th Largest Port in the US.

But get this, the Prince Rupert Port Authority in British Columbia - served by the Canadian National Railway with service to Chicago - said its container traffic increased 281 percent in the third quarter, compared with the first quarter. Hmmm. Lots of things to consider.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Elephant in the room. The homeless Zombie's parade to poop on sand dunes.

Each evening at nightfall starts the homeless campers march/trek to the Dunes by way of the Samoa Bridge. It is a somber looking group that consistently sleep in the Dunes. Mind you, some of these are people who can't seem to stay "clean" and sleep in available shelters with rules. Others have mental issues that makes it hard for them to stay out of "trouble."

OK. We all understand that we have a homeless problem. But with no available toilets on the Peninsula, where do you think these people defecate and urinate? You got it. Same problem we have behind the Bay Shore Mall. Shouldn't it be more humane for the county to supply B&B portable toilets in places we know homeless gather? It would be better than the environmental and health havoc they are creating by not having proper facilities.

Oh, but we are not supposed to know that we have gatherings of campers because that is illegal! So do we just keep ignoring this problem that won't go away?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gas $1.85 at Costco. Over $.40 more everywhere else in Eureka!

What other town can you find a gas price discrepancy of nearly a half dollar. There was a time not many years ago that gas prices in Eureka were no more than a few cents difference. And wasn't gas over $4.00 a gallon just a few months ago? Did more oil spring up? Weren't we going to tap into our national oil reserves? Everyone is quietly forgetting the big picture. We need to stop oil dependence.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Most overplayed songs at West Coast bars!

I have been to more than a few bars in places like Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, Arizona and California while I worked as a union organizer. Bars are usually a neutral place for some who were scared of the process. And it seems there is a usual 25 or so song’s that are played to death. Here are the 10 songs I could really do without hearing one more time at a bar:

10. “Crazy on you!” Heart. But strangely, I love it on the radio.

9. “Bad to the bone!” George Thorogood & The Destroyers. Yeah, leave that one alone!

8. “Radar love.” Golden Earring. Brenda Lee came on strong how many years ago? Give it a rest!

7. “Welcome to the Jungle!” Guns and Roses. No! Not for the 10th time tonight!

6. “Abracadabra” The Steve Miller Band. Or the “Joker” or “Big ol’ Jet Airliner.”

5. ”Joy to the World.” Three Dog Night. Joy to the fishes and you and me?

4. “Jack and Diane” John Cougar. How about no little ditty about them!

3. “Cecelia.” Paul Simon. Who in their right mind would ever pick this song on the Jukebox? And yet there it plays again!

2. "Old Time Rock and Roll!” Bob Seger. And someone will play this multiple times in an hour loop! Please, no more!

1. “Highway to Hell!” AC/DC. C’mon. I am in a bar. Don’t need to be reminded!

Really, there should be some filter on the Jukebox that will not allow a song to be played over 3 times in a night. That would help a lot. Later I will name my top ten favorite songs to hear in a bar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Evergreen will have no ESOP.

We had a well attended union meeting today and I brought up a possible exploration of a ESOP buyout of Evergreen pulp. Silence on the floor. No motions. Finally a comment was made about this not being the right time because of the economy. So there will be no ESOP. Next idea?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Moratorium made about cell phone towers by Eureka City Council.

I left the city council meeting after 10:30pm tonight after the council could not come to an agreement on a moratorium on Cell Phone tower construction. They needed a 4 out of 5 votes for this to happen. Jones and Endert were dissenting. There will be more discussion on this at another meeting after city legal counsel does some more research.

Robin and I own a house within the block of the proposed tower, so I was there to listen in on the discussion. The neighborhood in Henderson Center are passionately opposing this site. Going to be litigation I am sure.

Humboldt County Supervisor Bonnie Neely supported Measure T!

She went public today at the BOS chambers with her support of Measure T after John Woolley had said he supported and signed the Measure.

Hmmm. Seems to me that when I debated Bonnie at the KEET forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County she categorically denied support of the Measure and I publicly stated I was the only candidate to support it. Why the public flip flop? She compared the effort to her "No on Walmart" campaign.

Is Bonnie pandering to local "progressives" or simply doing some political posturing for the left?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Revisiting the ESOP at Evergreen!

Four years ago I wrote the following My Word in the Times Standard. I took all sorts of flack at the mill, as my fellow employees were put off by my presumption that they too wanted to pursue an Employee ownership or ESOP. I put the idea out there because the mill was in the balance of closing permanently. Just like now.

I still feel we made a mistake by not at least investigating our options more closely then. Evergreen went public that they were profiting millions with very little capital expenditures the first year they operated the mill. Of course they have spent millions in upgrades since, but by all accounts had 20 million owed to them by Lee Kwak when they closed the plant.

If we had more domestic partnerships, I believe we would not have run this financial course.

Most of my observations then are very relevant today. This is not a "I told you so" but a lesson to not be so quick to "Shoot the Messenger."

MY WORD-Richard Marks

Employee Ownership can save Pulp Mill

As a long time forest product worker at Stockton Pacific Enterprises pulp mill in Samoa, I am deeply concerned that my community is missing a once in a lifetime opportunity today in the management shakeup and potential sale of the mill.

Many people do not know that the Stockton Pacific Enterprises Pulp Mill is the only certified totally chlorine free (TCF) pulp mill operating in North America and the only operating pulp mill in California. Our raw material is wood chips, our product is virgin pulp and our market is worldwide.

Over 150 good jobs with benefits that add wealth to the community are directly dependent on the mill, and many more local Humboldt businesses and jobs are indirectly affected by the viability of the mill.

The Stockton Pacific Enterprises Pulp Mill is undergoing another turnover of owners and management. Already workers have given up 15 percent of our monthly wages (around $100,000 per month) in the hope that the mill will not be closed.

Several years ago we reduced our workforce by over 50 employees to cut costs to preserve the company. We have given and will give more to make this mill viable.

We owe the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) $600,000 in back payments for water, and if we close down we will never pay; the mill represents 45% of the monthly revenue of the HBMWD which would be borne by increased rates to residents if we close. PPM Finance (an American bank in Chicago owned by a British company) has a 17.5% interest loan which management cannot pay and the threat of foreclosure is very real.

We workers want to buy out our mill and operate it successfully. We can do this successfully through a mechanism called an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). We need time to develop a feasibility study and we need community support. We need our local legislators to sponsor legislation giving chlorine free pulp and paper products preferential status in state purchasing to assure a steady local market for our pulp. We need the Headwaters Funds and our economic development leaders to get behind and ESOP feasibility study and local ownership of the mill.

Think what a better situation we could have today in Humboldt County if our community had successfully supported an ESOP buyout of Pacific Lumber when Hurwitz and Maxxam rode into town in the 1980’s. We don’t want another round of foreign management: with a locally managed ESOP, it can be different this time.

An ESOP could provide for at least a 35% ownership, with two employee members on the board of directors; there would be profit sharing; democratic decision making; wages and benefits would be competitive with the industry; worker input on production; sound environmental stewardship and attention to worker safety; job retention; lobbying for greater production and sales of chlorine-free paper products.

We could work toward the conversion or development of the plant to include the manufacture of chlorine free finished paper products to create even more living wage jobs for the community.

To make all this happen, we need a working partnership with the HBMWD, an agreement which helps keep the district solvent without putting extra costs on local customers.

We need better communications between workers here at the plant and our community. We have a long term work investment here. The average worker has been at the plant over 20 years. We want to make this plant sustainable in good times and bad. I believe that an ESOP plan is the best way for direct worker involvement and investment in the future economic viability of this industry. We have a number of excellent models to work from, including the recent ESOP implemented by the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) Blue Heron Paper in Oregon, and the very successful union ESOP at Blue Ridge Paper in North Carolina. We have the resources, the people and the desire to succeed.

But the Stockton Pacific Enterprises Pulp Mill workers and local 49 cannot do this alone. We are asking the community for involvement and input. What kind of economic future do we have here in Humboldt County?

One of the alternatives is foreign management, like the potential Chinese owners or the British bank investors or Pacific Lumber’s Maxxam. Another alternative, one I prefer, is local ownership with real democratic worker participation in an ESOP.

We can choose the future direction and economic development of our community, and we need to act now to make it happen or we will lose this opportunity forever. The workers of Local 49 ask for your support and input.

Sobering Pulp Mill news in North America.

Pulp mill closures are becoming common place this year, and they are causing economic havoc to the communities they are in.

Catalyst permanently shuts down Elk Falls pulp mill (440 employees gone) Workers are in shock, said Ian Simpson, president of the Campbell River local of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union. "It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. He described the coastal forest industry as "completely screwed up," saying mills like Elk Falls are closing because they can't get fibre yet logs continue to be exported out of the province.

Smurfit-Stone to shut down Pontiac pulp mill (218 take a hike) "Deteriorating conditions in the pulp market necessitate that the company take prompt action to avoid cash losses," chief operating officer Steve Klinger said in the statement. "

Timeline: Berlin Pulp Mill Closure (200+ devastated) Bought for 31.5 million in 2002.

Prince George Citizen - New owners keeping pulp mill heated, union sees move as positive (250 left in the cold) Mill bought for 6.5 million in September. They are trying to secure materials. Sound Familiar?

tribunenb.com - An AV Cell shut down? (Many Threatened) "We've got the global economy in freefall right now…You'll see that it is an unprecedented situation where we've got pulp inventories skyrocketing around the world. Even though we are in the specialty bulk pulp business, the demand for the rayon, which is the final product, has just collapsed in China."

Delay of Reopening Mackenzie Pulp Mill Disappointing to Many It’s the uncertainty that is really stressing the workers says Bernasky “You can see it in their faces, there’s frustration, there’s anger. I know that if some of these people go, they may not come back, and the mill owners will lose the experience of those who really know this plant.”

Pope & Talbot prepare to shut three remaining pulp mills – Daily Commercial News (Nearly 1,000 out of work) But then 13 million can buy a pulp mill! Unique deal sees smiles for miles as Nanaimo pulp mill is back in business

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I've been Tagged!

By Carol Conners about 7 things you may not know about me. Here goes:

1. I am an ex-smoker.

2. Many of my inner circle of close friends are Republicans.

3. I have 4 brothers and 5 sisters and yet my mother had 7 children and my dad 8. How can that be? This ask Marilyn type question has answer below.

4. When Robin and I married I was a loan officer working for Transamerica Finances. Robin was a hair dresser.

5. I love oppressively hot weather. 110 and above!

6. I played drums and jammed with local musicians in the mid 70's.

7. I started working at a small farm with no adult supervision at 7 years of age. I had no babysitter and my mom worked swing shift. God watched out for me.

Answer: My mom and dad had 5 kids together. And 5 with others.

I tag:

Greg Connors

Joel

Rose

Heraldo

Erik

Joe

Ted Sillanpaa

Monday, November 10, 2008

Honor Veterans Day! What ever your thoughts on war!

I have a picture of my father, Major James Marks in front of the Schofield Barracks at Pearl Harbor, days before that fateful day of December 7th 1941 in our Dining room. My dad was also a veteran of the Korean War as well as my brother, Lieutenant James who died prematurely in a car accident. My brother Roy served in Korea and 2 terms in Vietnam. My brother Mike served in Nam and my brothers were highly honored with medals.

My brother Roy caught me wearing my brother Mike's Army Calvary Jacket when I was about 14 years of age. It was a cool thing at the time for us youngsters. I could swear to this day that I had permission from Mike. Roy was highly offended and challenged me to defend the jacket's honor. Mind you at 14 I was about 5'3" and 80 lbs but I took him up on this. I took a swing at Roy and was laid out cold. He beat the sh-- out of me for disrespect of our country. I did not have disrespect, I was just uninformed.

(Why was I so small? I was diagnosed with a rare skin cancer when I was very young that had me going to Stanford Children's Hospital and having radical treatments (Burning off and others) for years. It made for uncomfortable moments in the gym locker for years. "Ew, what the heck is that on your side!" It was a Wild Skin Cell that stopped growing finally in my mid 20's. Local guy Dr. Devine was no help!)

I finally was healthy by the time I graduated at 17 years of age and 5' 10" and 100 lbs. I was not in ARMY condition and neither of my brothers or my father even suggested I enlist. If the draft were in place I would have followed their lead and I respect their reason to not encourage me to go to Nam.

I have many friends and co-workers that are PTSD Posttraumatic stress disorder victims and I honor their duty to our country. I want them all to have all the treatments that are available and to this day feel guilty that they served this country in a manner I have not.

I am honored and humbled by their service. As I hope all other US civilians are.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Evergreen Stuff: Story, Lawyers, Water and 2009 Union Officers Election! (Cookhouse and Peninsula school to close?)

News Story: The North Coast Journal's Heidi Walters wrote a great human interest story called, "Without the Mill." Touched on how this lay-off is affecting real working class people. Our mill is very close-knit. I know it sounds corny, but we are a big family at Evergreen. You have to remember, you can't choose family, they are just there.

Lawyer Stuff: Our local union feels that Evergreen was in clear violation of the The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and we had our lawyers draft up a letter to Evergreen concerning pending legal action. Our lawyers (Only Lawyers get to make money on this) received a reply out of the offices of Jeffrey Herm ESQ of Denver Colorado. He makes the claim that Evergreen was involved in a financial "perfect storm" that Evergreen had no control of. He adds that "High Pulp inventories and the collapse in the Pulp market has dropped pulp prices from $700 a ton in early 2008 to $540 a ton recently. Evergreen's business circumstance made it impossible to acquire new capital." So they refuse to abide by Federal law and the payout of $882,000 to workers at the plant who are now leaning on local Social Services and burdening our local tax system. Frustrating.

We (Our Local) have also filed a grievance concerning our severance pay if they do permanently close the plant. According to our labor agreement they would owe around $1.5 to the workers. (4o hours of pay for each year of service, capping at 800 hours paid max. Mind you, that is nearly $16,800 for many at the mill.)

I thought it was strange that Evergreen has retained local Attorneys to fight a lawsuit by California Redwood Co. vs. Evergreen Pulp. W. Timothy Needham has been working on behalf of Evergreen. (Tim grew up in Humboldt County and lived in Fairhaven right down the road from the mill!) California Redwood Company has retained the law offices of California Insurance Defense Attorneys based in Eureka. (More Lawyers making money at nothing but filing paperwork. If Evergreen would quit hiring lawyers and just pay people this might not be happening.) Anyways, California Redwood Lawyers claim that Evergreen owes 15 million to California creditors and that Lee Kwok (A subsidiary of Lee and Man) owes Evergreen 20 million dollars that was sent to Lee and Man.

So the point is, if you are a Lawyer, you are working. If you are a pulp mill employee of Evergreen you are not. So use your re-training program to become a Lawyer. (My late dad, Army Major James Marks was a local Lawyer years back and encouraged me to, "Go into either Law or the Priesthood. That's where the money is!" In hindsight I should have studied labor law.)

"No Water for You!": After our huge union meeting Wednesday, I went to the Samoa Peninsula Fire District meeting of which I am a director, and learned that the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District General Manager Carol Rische had met with our Director Noreen O'Brien and Fire Chief Kevin Pope concerning implications of water being shut off to Evergeen Pulp! I was like, "Whoa Nellie!" If Evergeen does not pay its water bill in a timely fashion, the water is cut off in mid December. That means no water for DG Fairhaven, the pulp mill and the town of Samoa's Fire Suppression System. That will likely mean the closure of Peninsula Union School District, The Historic Samoa Cookhouse and most likely, Inside Sports. Unless someone pays off a Fire Marshall.

I went to the water district meeting today and talked with GM Rische and she recognized me from going to the water board meetings when this subject came up on pulp mill closure in 2005. (That's where I met Director Kaitlin Sopoci Belknap.) Carol gave me a written "plan" for the scenarios if the mill does not continue to pay the water bill. So let us hope this bill is paid in full soon!

Division 3 Director Barbara Hecathorn had earlier in the meeting mentioned my blog for information on Evergreen to the board and public!

Just for the record, Evergreen pulp pays 1.8 million dollars a year for water used. If that was dispersed to users in the district, it would come out to about a $2 rate hike a month. Not cataclysmic to the public.

Union Officers for AWPPW Local 49 2009:

As most of my fellow workers know, I made a decision a few months ago to not seek union office this year. (Long before this fiasco at the mill.) I have served as shop steward, union organizer, Vice President, President over the years. It has been an honor to serve my term as President and I achieved most of my goals; Shop Steward Training, Financial Leadership Training, Union Hall office organization, Union Meeting Quorum Improvement, Union Member participation and just overall transparent leadership. Whatever Information I have, it has been the memberships also. I hope to retain and continue my position as appointed Lobbyist for the AWPPW California Council.

Why am I stepping aside? I will be busy this next summer continuing my quest for higher public office locally. I will be forming a committee and doing all the nuts and bolts politically that I did not have time for in my last run. So, I would have not been able to effectively serve the local 49 members. I would have done a dis-service to them, or my future campaign. I will continue to serve on the boards for the Humboldt Domestic Violence Services, Samoa Peninsula Fire District, Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee and continue my Samoa Athletics small business.

And beside all that, Local 49 was blessed with many well qualified leaders who are willing to step forward. And they are:

President- Tom Reilly

Vice President- Nathan Zink

Recording Secretary- Jessie Arias

Financial Secretary- David Corral

Treasurer- Shawn Irvine

Guards- Mike Griffith
Dean Mohorovich

Trustee- Glen Vickers

Central Safety Committee- Jerry Brown
Dave Jones
Kurt Hippen
John Madger
Nick Romero

Standing Committee

Maintenance and Yard- David Dees
Randy Thompson

Machine Room and Shipping- Carl Mengel

Pulp Group, Chip Dump and Recaust- Rob Shepherd

Recovery- Doug Gingerich

Delegates- Doug Gingerich
Tom Reilly

This is last union election that I have had the privilege to organize. I want to thank the unpaid Organizers/Trustees from local 49 that have conducted this election with utmost iintegrity and professionalism: Mark Young, Ed Weatherbee and Mike Griffith. Considering the large turnout and the extra time to apply true democratic principles to this election. I am grateful for their volunteer work.

May we all go back to our jobs in respectful order.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Jeff Pauli on Evergreen Workers Insurance.

It was standing room only at our humble union hall and Jeff Pauli Insurance Services - Health Insurance California did a great job of explaining the ends and outs of our insurance issues. He can be reached at 445-5496 to help with any issues.

9-3 Record on Fearless Predictions. Check out how close I called them!

I was wrong on three seats. But check out the percentages. I predicted within 5% 14 out of 22, and all within 11%! I was very close on most!

Obama, Thompson and Chesbro. Easily.

Humboldt County Supervisor 2nd District

Clif Clendenen-No Party 37% Actual 40%

Estelle Fennell-Democrat 33% Actual 28%

Johanna Rodoni-Republican 30% Actual 32%

I was pretty close percentage wise. Johanna’s campaign did a great job of educating voters, but that write in thing is tough. Thank goodness no more “Pick Clif” ads!

Eureka City Council 2nd Ward-

Polly Endert-Republican 53% Actual 47%

Linda Atkins-Democrat 47% Actual 53%

The KEET forum seemed to be the turning point for the Atkins campaign. And I have never witnessed such a miss use of money in a campaign than in Endert’s case. (Too many mailers and newspaper ads.)

4th Ward-

Frank Jager-Republican 55% Actual 63%

George Clark-Democrat 45% Actual 37%

Tough one to run against. Frank is just a really good guy. Clark pretty much had no chance. A landslide in predominately Democrat area. Obviously I was wrong on that partisan thingy.

Arcata City Council (Three seats available)

Michael Winkler-Democrat 38% Actual 29%

Shane Brinton-Democrat 31% Actual 20%

Michael Machi-No Party 28% Actual 17%

Susan Ornelas-Republican 25% Actual 20%

Jason Grow-No Party 9% Actual 9%

Geronimo Garcia-Green Party 5% Actual 5%

Hey! Why didn’t anybody point out I screwed up the math on my prediction! Oh well, I was right on with Jason and Geronimo. Machi lost. Didn’t see that coming.

Humboldt Bay Municipal Water

DistrictDivision 1

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap-Green 58% Actual 62%

Stephen Davies-Democrat 42% Actual 38%

No surprise here.

Division 2

Ben Shepherd-Republican 35% Actual 30%

Edward “Buzz” Webb-Democrat 25% Actual 28%

Tera Prucha-Democrat 25% Actual 35%

Jake Pickering-Democrat 8% Actual 3%

Adrienne Floreen-No Party 7% Actual 4%

Nice surprise here. I thought Tera was the best choice. The Democrats in this race took 66% of the vote. This is becoming a very liberal area.

Division 3

Barbara Hecathorn-Republican 65% Actual 62%

Robert Shultz-Democrat 35% Actual 38%

Bob didn’t have much of a campaign. Barbara did. It showed in the numbers.

The HCDCC endorsed candidates went 6-3 and are 21-3 the last few elections.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

AWPPW Local 49 Election and Meeting tomorrow. Insurance Information will be available.

Tomorrow I will open our regularly scheduled meeting at 4:00pm off agenda to allow Insurance agent Jeff Pauli to answer questions about health insurance. I invite all workers to attend. (That includes salaried workers who are displaced.) Please pass the word on. I will call as many as I can. Be sure to vote for your new local officers for 2009!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Humboldt becoming a Red (Republican) county?

Tomorrow there will be some "cheers" or "tears" gathering in the local elections. There are 18 seats up for grabs in County, City and Water District elections, and this could be a sobering election for us lefties. With the tide in the US Congress and Senate washing toward the Democrat's why are we at risk locally? And don't give me that non-partisan offices speech. It won't work here.

For the record, there are 18 Democrats running, 13 Republicans, 6 No Party (NP), 2 Greens and 1 American Independent. Here is the list of Republicans, Greens or NP's who have a chance at winning:

District 2 Supervisor

Clif Clendenen
Johanna Rodoni (Way long shot)

Eureka City Council Ward 2

Polly Endert

Eureka City Council Ward 4

Frank Jager

Arcata City Council

Micheal Machi

Susan Ornelas

Fortuna City Council

Odell Shelton Jr.

Kenneth Zanzi

Rio Dell City Council

Richard Leonard

Marc Barsanti

Jack Thompson

Blue Lake City Council

Alexander Ricca

Ferndale City Council

Kenneth Mierzwa

Stuart Titus

David Walters

Trinidad City Council

Michael Morgan

Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District

Division 1

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap

Division 2

Ben Shepherd

Adrienne Floreen

Division 3

Barbara Hecathorn

So a worse case scenario would have the Dems only winning one seat in Arcata (Winkler is a lock), one seat in Blue Lake and the Mayor seat in Ferndale. 3 Democrats out of 18 local seats! The Republicans may have 9! With Green or NP's taking the other 7. There is also the chance that the HCDCC backed candidates will only have one victory.

The good side is Democrats could garner 15 of the seats if all goes well! It should be interesting day Tuesday!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fearless predictions for November 4th 2008!

In June 2008, I was about as close as one could get on the local races. Here I stick out my neck again. And add the presidential election.

President

Barack Obama 50%
John McCain 45%
Others 5%

Let us hope and pray!

Congress and Assembly-

Thompson and Chesbro by many votes.

Humboldt County Supervisor 2nd District

Clif Clendenen-No Party 37%

Estelle Fennell-Democrat 33%

Johanna Rodoni-Republican 30%

I can not see JO/RO educating enough voters or motivating enough to pull this write-in Ballot attempt off. Clif seems to have gained support and Estelle’s campaign seems to have leveled off. I hope I am wrong, but this is my opinion.

Eureka City Council

2nd Ward-

Polly Endert-Republican 53%

Linda Adkins-Democrat 47%

Linda has proven to be an admirable candidate and this will be a close race. Polly seems to have spent/wasted many of thousands of dollars on unnecessary multi-mailers and way too much in Newspaper ads. But just the shear volume of literature, and close North Coast ties will lead Polly to be elected.

4th Ward-

Frank Jager-Republican 55%

George Clark-Democrat 45%

I have said this was a lock for the Democrat in the race, but I have seen many Democrats supporting Frank. Why? Got me. Frank has huge name recognition and most of it is positive?

Arcata City Council (Three seats available)

Michael Winkler-Democrat 38%

Shane Brinton-Democrat 31%

Michael Machi-No Party 28%

Susan Ornelas-Republican 25%

Jason Grow-No Party 9%

Geronimo Garcia-Green Party 5%

Winkler is a lock. Shane, Machi and Ornelas are going to be close. This is my wishful thinking.


Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District

Division 1

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap-Green 58%

Stephen Davies-Democrat 42%

Kaitlin has been a good district board member that has worked well with other board members.

Division 2

Ben Shepherd-Republican 35%

Edward “Buzz” Webb-Democrat 25%

Tera Prucha-Democrat 25%

Jake Pickering-Democrat 8%

Adrienne Floreen-No Party 7%

Ben did really well on the KEET debates and seemed smooth. He has been on the MCSD for years and knows a thing or two about campaigning. The HCDCC split on endorsing a Democrat may cost a Democrat seating on this board. Still don't know what Jake Pickering looks like. Adrienne looked way angry during the debate.

Division 3

Barbara Hecathorn-Republican 65%

Robert Shultz-Democrat 35%

Robert needed to form a committee and work the streets. Did not see this happen.

All these predictions are my own. I have heard from many in each area and can qualify my choices. Don’t argue with me now, wait and chastise me afterwards. Who out there has the guts to publicly give their unbiased opinion?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Went to the union hall and a meeting broke out!

Actually, I was at the union hall to meet with our local Treasurer and Financial Secretary to pay bills and to put our hall insurance in order. (Special thanks to Greg Conners) But as 4pm rolled around, workers from Evergreen started to show up for a meeting. They were one week off. Our regular scheduled meetings are the first and third Wednesday at 4pm. But it gave those who came a chance to catch up on some information. Here is some of what I know:

Evergreen Pulp, in whatever form they have become, are paying some vendors. To what extent is beyond me. (Why would they be writing checks if they had no intention of doing further business?) Around 20 people remain on payroll. (8 Union Hourly) Our wood chip ramps are being removed as hog fuel to the highest bidder. Once the chips are gone, then construction of concrete ramps will begin. This is a positive capital expenditure that leads one to believe Evergreen has every intention of re-starting.

Insurance Questions revisited: Our insurance coverage will be in place until Nov. 30th. You will need to pay for COBRA if do want your insurance to lap. I am working on finding a provider to will cover the gap at a lower price. I will call all members when I have a time set up for a meeting for the Insurance to be available to answer Questions. I will do my best to contact the Salary employees as well. Hopefully by the 2nd week in November.

Retirement Benefits: For those of you who are eligible for the Defined Benefit Retirement Program, if you elect to start collecting and you are younger than 62 years of age, you will be penalized 3% per year of service for every year you are under 62. To be eligible to even start receiving benefits you must be 55 and have 30 years in or a combination of the two that equals 85. And if you decide to retire, you must terminate your service with Evergreen. So if we do start up and you want to come back, you will start at the bottom seniority wise.

Retirement Insurance: If you decide to retire at 62, you are eligible for Insurance coverage until you are 65 and are then under Medicare. UNLESS, Evergreen closes the Mill Permanently. Then retirees are in the same boat as the rest of the workforce, you will be out of insurance.

Disability Insurance: We have quite a few workers who are on Workers Compensation and State Compensation. Some are assuming their insurance coverage will continue while the mill is down. You are only covered for your pre existing condition! If you walk out your house and are injured on Dec. 1, 2008, you are not covered! Be sure to have health insurance coverage by Nov. 30th at the latest.

Next Wednesday, November 5th at 4pm will be our next regularly scheduled meeting. We will also be electing new officers for 2009.

I will post more information as it becomes available.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Car count. McCain 13 Obama 1.

McCain was interviewed in Detroit and said, " I've bought American literally all my life and I am proud." In real life (Since he deals so much in the fantasy world) he was taken to task about his daughter Meghan's Toyota Prius by United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger.

Obama's one vehicle is a Ford Escape Hybrid and his one car before that was a Chrysler.

McCain's fleet includes an UNAMERICAN made:

2005 Volkswagen
2001 Honda
(Meghan's) Toyota

McCain's AMERICAN made fleet:

2004 Cadillac CTS
2007 Ford Truck
1960 Willys Jeep
2008 Jeep Wrangler
2000 Lincoln
2001 GMC SUV
3 2000 NEV Gem electric cars

Cindy's ride is a Lexus with personal plates that read MS BUD. Cute.

Ok. Ok. I have to admit Robin and I have a fleet of our own that includes a 1995 BMW. But our other 5 cars are American: 2002 PT Cruiser, 1998 Mercury Tracer, 1997 Ford Escort and 2 1985 Ford Rangers. I have had many cars, but only a few were not American.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Perfect day in Humboldt to catch 5 different sports venues! Shane Brinton endorsed by Eureka Reporter!?!?

Went to watch the Al Cooper Softball Tournament at HSU. Had to park quite a hike away. Then had to maneuver through the construction.

There was a big Lacroose Tournament going on at Redwood Bowl. Bright colored teams with sticks. I don't get it.

HSU and College of the Redwoods had a great game going. HSU clung on to a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the 6th inning. Jessy D'Eliso for CR had pitched a 2 hitter to this point against a team with 3 All Americans for HSU. (Caitlan Klug, Chrissy Motzney and Natalie Gallety?) Kristina Lewis pitched for HSU and looked OK. (Hannah Mullen-Jones is coaching the CR pitchers. With Jessy and Chenone Blake from Hoopa, this might be a banner year for CR in the GVC.

I left in the middle of the next game between HSU and Shasta with HSU one run behind and went to check out the new HSU sports facility. Wow, way impressive. This new basketball court will host 1,900 fans comfortably. The HSU men's basketball team was scrimmaging itself in split squads. There were 5 different local referees splitting time reffing. The HSU team look athletic and fast. But erratic with their 3 point shooting. (Why waste millions of dollars on a facility that only holds 600 more than the east gym? And the old pool wasn't that bad. How about more books and teachers up there? And yes, the parking still is terrible!)

Next I drove to CR to watch the Corsairs against Marin. Here is a scoop! Nick Bennett from Florida had 5 sacks to beat Line Backer coach Tino Romero's old record of 4! Running Back Lydon Rowells was stopped for minus yardage at least 6 times and was injured in the third quarter and sat out for awhile.....and still topped 100 yards in a 21-8 CR victory and a share of 1st place. QB Sergio Allen had a solid game. Local Wide Receiver Ronnie Webb (His dad Ronnie played for this same CR football team over 30 years ago) had three catches and needs more thrown his way. Two of his grabs were diving catches. Freshman Otis Wiley filled in for Rowells a few times and looks like he will have a huge season next year. I do like the "Fast Break" type offense that CR runs, but it seems that Rowells reps are too predictable. They need to find more ways to get him the ball in the open. And the CR football team seems to have a huge injured list! I bet they have nearly 20 players out right now. Why is that? There were some vicious hits in this game, so there may be more for the injured list. In the background I could see the CR baseball team playing South Western Oregon, and it seemed many hits were coming off the bats of SWOCC.

Shane Brinton endorsed by The Eureka Reporter? Robin and I went out for pizza and beer with long time friends. I was brought to the carpet over my written endorsement/Letter to the editor for Shane. (My good buddy is a Conservative Republican.) I shrugged it off and went to the rack for a Eureka Reporter. I asked him if this was his newspaper of choice and if he agreed with their conservative values. He said "yes." So I opened up the ER to the editorial page and had him read, "Young, bright, energetic and realistic about the issues. From hobnobbing with Marxists as a youth, he has come a long way. Today, he could best be described as a progressive who seeks to understand both sides of an issue. Favors light industrial parks for “green” energy businesses." My buddy said he would have to re-access his view on Shane.

Can't wait to see the Times Standard picks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What is going on with Lee and Man and these subsidiaries? Wise Sense, Joint Creation, Top Honor and Worthy Pick?

Lot's of movement with Lee and Man lately. I can't figure out what they are doing.

China's Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing has sold its two indirectly wholly-owned Colorado-based subsidiaries, which own the US pulp producer Evergreen Pulp, for HK$200 million ($26 million).
The two subsidiaries, HKLM and USLM, have been snapped up by the British Virgin Islands-based firm Worthy Pick Group. Lee & Man said the deal was completed immediately after signing the agreement on October 15. The company estimated the gain from the sale of the assets at HK$1 million.
Evergreen Pulp has a market pulp mill in Samoa, California, with a capacity of over 200,000 tonnes/yr of softwood kraft pulp.
In a press conference in Hong Kong on October 16, Lee & Man's CEO Raymond Lee said the sale was a strategic move, allowing the company to focus on its operations in China and Vietnam.
Vietnam PM start postponed
But the startup of its greenfield mill in Hau Giang province in Vietnam will be pushed back one year from 2009 to the second half of 2010, he added. The CEO had earlier confirmed the delay while speaking at the European Paper Recycling Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on October 6.
The plant will house a 420,000 tonne/yr recycled containerboard machine, PM 15, and a 150,000 tonne/yr bleached hardwood kraft (BHK) pulp line.
The $630 million Hau Giang scheme is a joint venture of Lee & Man and another Chinese firm, Wise Sense Investments, and will be managed by a holding company called Joint Creation.
The Hong Kong-listed Lee & Man has a 75% stake in Joint Creation via its indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary Top Honor Industries, while Wise Sense holds the rest.
Pulp line online at Chinese site
Meanwhile, however, Lee & Man has started commercial production on a 150,000 tonne/yr BHK and bamboo pulp line at its mill in China's southwestern municipality of Chongqing, following successful trial runs that began in late July.
The facility already housed a 300,000 tonne/yr recycled containerboard machine, PM 13, which came online in early July.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Humboldt Port Development. Lets talk.

Humboldt Port Development.

The rail story you don’t hear:

On February 11th of 1998 one of my best friends was the engineer of a train hauling product from Northern Humboldt to the southern portion of our rail system. Word was out that a slide was occurring between Dos Rios and Bell Springs. Nick’s step father “Fergy” Ferguson told Nick to abandon the rail cars at Island Mountain, and those cars are there to this day! Nick took the Locomotive north to wait for the time to return to repair the line. Mind you, this had been pretty much Standard Operating Procedure for over 85 years. The repairs needed to restore service were nothing more than they had been up against in past years or not anything they hadn’t seen before. Nick said it would have taken about 2 days at the least, and no more than a week or two to resume service at way under 1 million dollars. Unfortunately, the North Coast Rail Authority had contracted out rail services to Railways Inc. and CEO Ron Darling had announced they were going bankrupt. Nick and other rail workers were actually working for free, in hope that the rail would find money to pay the employees sometime in the future. When it became obvious there would be no payroll checks forthcoming, people left to find new jobs. Many workers filed claims for past payment due from Railways Inc…….including the CEO Ron Darling. Wild stuff.

So this interruption in train service for just ten years ended up being a huge contributor to the train downfall. We went from a rail system needing less than 1 million to continue a service that had only short interruptions in the winters for decades, to a totally stagnant rail system that is dilapidating yearly. New figures thrown out there for functional/actual train service is now over 1 Billion dollars! How and why did this happen? It seems the North Coast Rail Authority has become its own beau racy that has money coming in, but where is it going out? Staff? Repairs? Studies? Directors? Attorneys? Got me. I am looking from the outside in. This is a loosely wrapped observation and I am sure others out there who know more particulars. Please refute my facts publicly and not anonymously. I will monitor those out.

Who is Worthy Pick? Evergreen Pulp mill's new owner.

Lee & Man Paper (2314) said it disposed the entire interest in USLM Acquisition, Inc. and HKLM Acquisition, Inc, (”USLM & HKLM”) at a consideration of HK$200 million. USLM & HKLM were paper pulp manufacturers in the USA. The gain from the transaction was estimated at about HK$1 million and the consideration was decided based on the net book value of the assets of USLM & HKLM. The transaction was completed on 15 October.

Raymond Lee, CEO of Lee & Man Paper, said, “The profit margins of USLM & HKLM have been dwindling significantly because of the continuing increasingly production cost in USA. With what’s best for long-term development of the group in mind and the pulp line in Chongqing plant has started production, we decided it is the right time to dispose of the business. The move has freed resources for us to concentrate on growing our containerboard and pulp businesses in China with lower production costs.”

“Worthy Pick,” the concern that purchased the pulp mill (USLM & HKLM), is a shell holding company based in the Virgin Islands with links to Lee and Man. Because of the downturn in the pulp industry and because of the recent credit crisis, Lee and Man needed cash fast - hence the sale. Sources say that because Worthy Pick has inside links to Lee and Man, they will sell it back to L&M when the global pulp market improves, perhaps three to six months from now. Stay tuned.

"Worthy Pick" -- listed as incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on Jan. 10, 2008 -- is believed to be in the paper manufacturing business, according to the Hong Kong exchange filing.

Why would they invest in a Pulp Mill with the market so bleak?

SINGAPORE, Oct. 20, 2008 (RISI) - The Asian pulp market remains in freefall, with no sign of the bottom in sight. Market players are at sixes and sevens, unsure when the slide may end.
Contract prices for October orders are still under negotiation in the region. But suppliers have offered to slash them by $70/tonne for bleached softwood and hardwood kraft pulps.
They have not yet decided what prices to offer for unbleached softwood kraft pulp or bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp grades this month. But these are expected to fall as well.
Regular buyers attributed the weak pulp conditions to stagnant paper and board demand in the region.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Evergreen Worker stuff.

There has been plenty of discussion on the blogs concerning our status. Check out Sound investment or irresponsible debt? by Bill Holmes of HighBoldtage and EVERGREEN PULP: Closing for good? The Humboldt Herald. Be sure to check out the comments.

I have been in contact with local labor leaders and will be meeting with some tomorrow over proper protocol for Evergreen workers to enter local union trades. I encourage workers to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. This may be the time to really consider using the training available to have a new vocation. When/if the Pulp Mill starts, you will have to make a decision on where to go career wise.

I have also been in contact with a local insurance provider who may be able to write insurance to fill the gap of our unemployment for under $200 a person as opposed to the over $500 for Cobra. I will be calling the membership when I have a meeting set up. We have until Nov. 30th unless I am able to have Attorneys get us an extension per WARN ACT violation.

I have had local financial experts examine the financial transaction of the sale of Evergreen (Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd.) and what I am hearing so far is not all positive.

To top it all, I am sure you all have received your 401k Quarterly statement from Principal Financial Group for the 3rd Quarter. I lost $4,600 this last three months and have been losing over $1,000 per month for the year. (Well over $10,000 this fiscal year) Don't even want to see my loses for the 4th Quarter of 2008. Most of my account is in Large U.S. equity. (High risk)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Evergreen Pulp to start in a few months! As a new company. Evergreen Pulp?

Positive News: I have been assured this by Evergreen CEO David Tsang. He said Lee & Man has every intention to re-start the plant in a window of 3 to 6 months into the future. He pointed out the fact that Lee & Man has spent millions in upgrades and have until recently paid their debts orderly. They have a cash flow issue that should be taken care of soon with a change of banks. Local vendors have been paid in full and some partial with what cash flow we have left. We have plenty of customers lined up for the future once our pulp goes from warehouses to customers.

Negative News: Evergreen has a shipment delivery that is being held up with a Temporary Protection Order or lien by local vendors who have not been paid in full. The shipment is estimated to be worth 6 million dollars. The vendors are owed over 2 million and are protecting their interests. Evergreen may also be in violation of the The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and owe 215 workers either 60 days pay or 60 days work. And if this shutdown becomes permanent, Evergreen/Lee & Man owes 800 hours pay per our labor agreement, severance to many hourly employees.

Employee Dilemma: What do you do? If you take advantage of the services available through Humboldt County services and are in a training program to be re-introduced to the workforce in the form of a new job, you will have to make a decision whether to go back to Evergreen, if the Pulp Mill starts in the middle of your training, or try your hand at new vocation. And you have to make that decision right when the Mill starts up! Which Career will you choose? Quick, how will you feed your family and pay the mortgage? Going to be tough for the younger folks.

Insurance Dilemma: As of November 30 (Unless legal counsel find the Warn Act violated.) workers will be out of health insurance and can choose to purchase insurance through COBRA . It is kind of pricey: $558 per month for individuals, $972 per month Employee and Spouse or Employee and Child and $1436 per month per family. So if you receive the max unemployment amount of $1800 a month to live on with a family you have $364 to pay for rent/mortgage and food. That dear friends, is a reality check. Now you can search for a independent insurance carrier to bridge that gap while you are uninsured, but they must meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements of proof of insurance, so there is no unlap of insurance on workers with pre-existing conditions so they can be put back on Evergreen's insurance roles. I have been actively searching insurance carriers to meet these requirements more cost effective.

Employee Information: I have had many calls from workers and employees coming up to me asking questions. I have been shocked to hear how many keep track of things through this blog. So let me cover some easy questions to answer concerning unemployment paperwork: You are represented by the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers local 49. Phone number for the local is 442-2289. Evergreen's address is #1 TCF Drive, PO Box 218 Samoa Ca 95564. Feel free to call me with any questions at 445-3432. I am not working you know!

Upsate: Pulp Mill Dumped. Pulp mill company sold, CEO says move is to refinance. I hope this all is good news.

Atkins/Clark campaign goes negative. Man I hate that.

I heard a radio ad for the Atkins/Clark campaign that was very negative against the Endert/Jager campaigns. The later was identified as a collaborative effort and attacked as such, when people in the know realize that is not true. I just don't agree with campaigns focusing on the others weaknesses and not just focusing on what they can bring positive to the council. And the Atkins/Clark ticket has many strengths. I don't think they needed to stoop to this. Just my opinion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Humboldt County displaced workers RAPID RESPONSE team greets huge Evergreen crowd.

The safety conference room was packed to the gills with Salary and Hourly Employees and their spouse's to find out what programs are being provided by the county to get workers back to work. One ironic thing in this process was the presenter was Sandy Neal, the ex-Pulp Mill Manager for Louisiana Pacific! How to apply for unemployment was covered by Anne Crossan. Steve Hughes covered training, resume writing, relocation assistance and stuff like that. Linda Cohen from Coast Central offered services on what to do with our 401k plans, and Sandy covered information for counseling, technical assistance and small business management. Amy Brewer from the Humboldt County Personnel office explained the process to apply for County jobs.

The County is the largest employer in the area with 1,900 on payroll. If unemployment locally hits 10% (Most likely will be by next month) the tax base will take a pounding and there will be county budget cuts in the future. Not a good option.

The Response team put out at least 19 pieces of literature to consider in less than 2 hours and I felt it was kind of overwhelming for some of the workers. But it was better than going out of work naked in knowledge.

One of the issues that the Response team could not answer was the status of the workers. There are programs available to workers if they are permanently laid off for long term re-training, that are not available if this turns out to be a short term lay-off. As union president, I have contacted counsel to give us an answer soon. I will see what options workers have to re-locate to other pulp mills or union affiliates.

Could be a long winter. Long and cold.