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.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I sure hate seeing the Evergreen workers get the 'run around' treatment. There are companies out there though who treat their employees fairly. Take for instance a company I found on the internet today which is taking the world lead to develop a new line of pulp fiber related products for the future.

When you get the opportunity take a look at the following website about a 'forward' thinking fiber company which has developed a pulpable fiber that can also be used as a biofuel.

www.sfiber.com

It even has the name Samoa as a part of it's company name. Click on the Management button not far from the top of the website to learn more about these remarkable individuals who have since 2001 worked on this project and are raising funds to help develop this new line of pulp/biofuels for the future.

Who knows, maybe they might even be interested in hiring some of the skilled former Evergreen pulp employees to help assist them at some point in the future.

It wouldn't hurt to ask!

Anonymous said...

Since 2000, Mr. New has been active in acquisitions, turnarounds and the development of the intellectual property surrounding the use of SamoaFiber for use as a substitute for wood in the pulp and paper industry.

Mr. New's career covers the spectrum of executive management positions in Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial ventures with start-ups and turnarounds. He has experience working for Procter and Gamble and Philip Morris and accumulated more than 30 years in the paper industry. He has raised well over $100 MM in the capital markets for business ventures and has highly successful hands-on experience formulating, over-seeing and starting up large capital projects

mresquan said...

Has Rex been standing up for you guys?

samoasoftball said...

1:09pm & 2:01pm- Is this someone's sick joke? That was our former employer at Samoa Pacific. Bell New already did the "cut and run" thing to us!

Anonymous said...

it seems that information and truth was more forthcoming when Rex was there was he accessible to you guys Richard

Anonymous said...

it seems that information and truth was more forthcoming when Rex was there was he accessible to you guys Richard

Anonymous said...

accessible somewhat, helpful NO

Anonymous said...

Rex's actual role was just a worker supervisor. The owners understood that local racism means a Chinese boss wouldn't be welcomed, so they put up a "happy face" and gave him a job title. Made locals feel he was important. And anyway, WTF does Rex know about wood pulp manufacturing?

Rex had no real authority, wasn't part of the decision making. Who would possibly think that owners with millions of dollars invested would delegate anything to someone like Rex, beyond playing good old boy with suppliers and deciding where chips should be piled up?

Anonymous said...

Screwed.

Anonymous said...

Don't the workers have a union that takes dues from every paycheck to look out for their interests? If the union doesn't do something to look out for the workers like getting them paid, filing suit over WARN or COBRA violations, I would hope that the workers demand a refund of their dues for fraud.

samoasoftball said...

8:06pm Unless you live under a rock, you would know that we are not the only union outfit in the US that has been a victim of Warn Act violations and health insurance issues. Yes, our union has been filing the right charges for the workers or they would have the right to file charges for non-representation.

I am highly offended by your assumption as a non-paid union President and would love to take you to the back the woodshed for a whooping. People like you always thinking being union just means paying union dues. On average union workers in the Manufacturing sector make 30% more than your non-union shops. United we bargain, divided we beg. Our wages our based on years of collective bargaining.

As far as the questions about Rex, he knows quite a bit about our pulp processes through much hands on studying and has a good relationship with many of the workers. He did a good job building relationships with chip vendors and was good at public relations with the media. And one thing for sure, Rex had an open door policy. Never seen it shut while he was at work. Doesn't mean we agreed on everything, but we both wanted what was best for Evergreen while we employees. (Rex and I picked up our last checks the same day.)

Mike Buettner said...

Richard - sorry to hear the news. Just want you to know there are lots of us in the community who wish the best outcome.

Is there any sort of worker relief fund set up yet? As a community I would think there would be the desire to help no matter how big or small.

Mike

samoasoftball said...

9:31pm-Thanks Mike. No worker relief fund set up yet. Nice to hear community support.

Anonymous said...

I know that this is off subject, but on the page talking about the fiber on sfiber's webpage (www.sfiber.com/sfiber.html) at the left side just after the end of the text, is that a picture of our mill? It really looks like it to me. All the stacks are in the right places if you assume that the picture was taken opposite of the old simpson mill, maybe a little farther south.

Anonymous said...

There's also one from the air on the market page (http://www.sfiber.com/Bios/markets.html) that I know is our mill. We had the same picture on the computers at the mill.

Anonymous said...

At least Rex was out in the mill looking at what was going on, as for responsibility he was in charge of our biggest expenditure at the mill our resources. We were almost out of chips when he came on board and made drastic improvements on that regard.He also was there every morning when I came in for my shift the 1st one in the office usually 6 days a week.I hear he has a couple of things in the works.

Anonymous said...

30% more? Sounds like you were overpaid.

Anonymous said...

Stop fighting amongst yourselves. You guys are the Union here. While the AWPPW leadership is filing charges, you need to be making as much 'noise' as possible about your group not receiving your WARN pay and Cobra coverage.

Don't wait for months to drag out expecting some kind of relief from the AWPPW and or the state labor commission. Don't play the role of the victim.

You also need to be making as much noise as possible about your mill being down! It was only your job!

Come up with some ideas. While you can not probably do a sit-in like Republic (because you are now out of the mill), call for a meeting and discuss things which you can do. Again, make enough 'noise' so that the outside world knows that you have a problem here. You are not some isolated area in California!

Long term, you need to find out what this 'Worthy Pick'is all about and what they have in store for the mill. Don't wait until the supervisors and Lund are walking around the mill premises numbering various equipment parts for an auction.

From Richard's past posts, it appears that the vast majority of you are not interested in a partial employee ownership of the operation. That's sad. An ESOP would be very difficult anyway at this time because the mill is now down and not in operation.

Start thinking about what jobs are available for you and your fellow coworkers around the county which pay even close to make you were making at Evergreen. Do you really want to start over? A little break might be fine this month or next, but what about a year from now, or two years down the road. Again, push and find out what they are planning to do with the mill.

Again, time is of the essence here. Those wages and benefits at Evergreen will not be easily replaced for many seeking employment locally. I think that for many of you, you will come to miss this mill, if Worthy doesn't reopen it.

Richard is correct about other mill workers at other locations not receiving their WARN benefits and insurance. There needs to be changes made to the law, because as you all well know, employers are not paying them.

As for the eariler posts above about the former owners of the mill, I can't understand how according to Richard's posts, they ran the mill into the ground twice leaving unpaid bills to local vendors, when according to their website, if these are the same people, they have been raising millions of dollars since around 2000 for their global fiber venture project.

Something just isn't adding up there.

samoasoftball said...

9:18am-Where to even start.

"Making Noise" We have had numerous Front page stories about our plight. Plenty of radio and TV also. I have been in contact with all local political representatives. I have had packed meetings every 1st and 3rd Wednesdays and packed Eureka City Chambers for a water board meeting. The AWPPW President and California Area Rep were here just 2 days ago! I am not sitting on my hands here!

"Find out what this Worthy Pick is all about" I have lawyers, financial people, media and all politico's trying to give me this information. Obviously they are a "ghost" or "shell" company formed for liability reasons.

"ESOP" That dog refuses to hunt. I am all for trying, the majority of fellow workers do not want to try.

"Start thinking about jobs...." Many of our workforce have found jobs and most are looking or are being re-trained. None that I know of that pay the same. There are not many jobs that pay what were paid locally. I have been harrasing David Tsang and others to give us information on what the goal for the mill is.

Clear violation of the WARN act and labor compliance should have a high priority. We are finding out first hand that it does not.

As far as the post about Samoa Fiber. In and around 2002 when "Samoa Pacific" (Bill New) owned the mill, we produced pulp out of "cane" like they are collecting money for their "exploration." Yes that is our plant on their web-page. I think we are the only plant to successfully make pulp from cane. Problem was harvesting or eradicating the cane around Camp Pendleton. Environmetal concerns came about as it was an invasive species. Not native to our area.

Doesn't all add up? I agree.

Anonymous said...

Richard,

I for one, don't think that the prior posters are implying that you are 'sitting on your hands' in regard to the mill closure issue. Anyone who has ever volunteered for 'union duty' is well aware that it is a thankless job at times.

It's great that you are getting the media backing. The community needs to fully understand what the impact the loss of these jobs and the absence of that mill will mean to the county economically.

Regarding the recent post about someone thinking that your group is overpaid: Most of the outside world does not realize what sacrifices are made in order to perform shift work around the clock at a mill. They don't understand the higher than average divorce rate. They don't get the estimated shortage on life expectancy due to working all those crazy kinds of hours. They can't understand why you don't want to be socialable when you turn down that invitation to their Friday night barbeques because you are needed back down at the mill.

Mill workers' wives and or children have a hard time understanding why one is a grouch as they try to sleep during the day after working graveyard.

On top of those issues, there are the daily exposures to a variety of chemicals, along with other hazards (such as high pressure steam) associated in the pulp making process.

As mill workers though, we have chosen that line of work and thus we are compensated accordingly.

In regard to the WARN violation, what has Mike Thompson's office said about any of it? They need to modify the WARN legal language so that this does not continue to be an issue in the future. An employer is either going to need to create a reserve account with enough funds to cover the 60 days worth of wages for every employeee affected, or the federal government needs to step in and pay off each employee instead.

Maybe if the federal government has to start paying off workers at a few various plant closures, they may then take a more serious approach to resolving these WARN violations.

The way things are at the present though, the federal WARN act is just one big joke-and the joke is on those workers who were sent out of their former employer's front gate!

Anonymous said...

In regard to your mill pictures being on that website, that upside-down leaf logo on that somoa fiber web site is the old Plainwell Paper leaf logo.

Plainwell paper, now there's a series of mills that went belly-up in just a short period of time after Simpson spun them off.

See on that site also where there are ties or contacts to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Interesting.

samoasoftball said...

3:35pm- You make good points. Needs to be looked into.

Anonymous said...

Richard,

What is SPI doing with the woodchips which were going to Evergreen? Are they owed money too?

Anonymous said...

30% more than non union workers, and now out of work. hmmmm..

Anonymous said...

Yes, 30% above the non union workers. The unionzied employees are the ones who probably also have a group health insurnace plan. They may have some form of a retirement pension plan which does not necessarily rely on stock market performance such as a 401K.

But again, we are now a global economy and it is probably a safe assumption to say that everyone reading these posts has something in their home which was manufactured over in Asia at a low wage.

As a matter of fact, these same cheap Asian made goods may have been shipped over here to the states inside a cardboard container which had been produced with pulp made by Evergreen.

So what do we do, demand that Richard and his fellow union members accept a pay structure equal to wages paid to their Asian worker counterparts in order to compete globally? I believe minimum wage pays more, so should we also roll that back to say 50 to 75 cents an hour to be fair to those working over in Asia?

What's the long term solution then, in order to compete fairly globally, while a U.S. worker can still afford to provide food on the table, a roof over their family's head and a car in the driveway?

Are you suggesting that they set up a cardboard village say out on the beach and walk into the mill across the road?

U.S. manufacturing workers need to 'draw a line in the sand' and it might as well be the Evergreen employees who do it.

Anonymous said...

A couple quick questions for Rich:

If those photos are really of your pulp mill on someone else's website, why then do you think that they are on there in the first place?

Question two: Why would you demand L&M to pony up your WARN pay now, when your Local deemed it not important enough the last time to pursue the WARN pay when Stockton Pacific left town?

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