Throughout the turbulent 1990’s as waves of mergers and closures swept across the Forest Products Industry dislocating and disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of Machinist Woodworkers, the leadership of the Woodworkers struggled to find a response to these economic forces of change. The dramatic increase in the cost of timber and consolidations among the largest forest products corporations meant that the union needed a plan to promote stabilization in the industry and job security for its members. the IAMAW HPWO program offered the framework for an appropriate economic response.
Starting with the Weyerhaeuser Corporation and since spreading to Potlatch, thousands of woodworkers are still at work today as a result of the HPWO program. By gaining a voice in local mill business plans, union members have been able to prevent costly managerial errors, improve job security, and forge a new type of labor relations with some of the largest forest products corporations in the world.
While still in its relative infancy, the partnership programs in the forest products industry have provided woodworkers with enhanced job security, more control over their work environment, safer jobs, and a larger voice in corporate decisions. Participating corporations have seen bottom line improvements as a result of partnership.
The next generation of HPWO in this industry is just around the corner. Self-directed work teams and joint business plans promise to improve working conditions, compensation, educational opportunities, and expand market share for the partners.