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)

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

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.