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But What About Jobs?

By Judi Bari, Fall 1996

When Redwood National Park was created in the 1970's, the loggers and millworkers in this region still had unions to represent them. Those unions negotiated an agreement in which displaced timber workers were paid two thirds of their wages for the next six years, to give them a chance to re-train or re-locate and find a new job.

Since then, the unions have been busted, and the only ones pretending to speak for the workers are MAXXAM management and their captive congressman Frank Riggs (a Republican). For all their talk about jobs, none of their proposals have included one iota of compensation for displaced workers, although all of their proposals have included oodles of compensation for corporate criminal Charles Hurwitz.

Back in 1993, when Dan Hamburg (a Democrat at the time) had just been elected to Congress and environmentalists were drafting the Headwaters Acquisition Bill, I got a chance to look at this problem in detail. I was in charge of the committee assigned to write a worker's clause for the bill.

In order to do this, I convened a group of displaced and currently employed loggers and millworkers from MAXXAM, Simpson, and L-P, who met with a small group of hand-picked Earth First!ers. We asked the timber workers what to do about the loss of jobs that would come from saving Headwaters. Printed below is the proposal we came up with. This proposal should be part of any plan to save Headwaters.

Introduction:

The basic principle of this proposal is that the employees of Pacific Lumber are not responsible for the crimes of Charles Hurwitz, and they should not have to bear the brunt of them. Displaced workers are entitled to a severance package that gives them an opportunity for equivalent pay to those lost through the creation of the Headwaters Forest Redwood Complex. This plan calls for providing those jobs in restoration work, using the existing skills of the displaced timber workers, as part of a forest rehabilitation plan for the devastated lands surrounding the Headwaters Forest ancient groves.

In addition to providing jobs, this plan has two other advantages. First, it serves the needs of the timber workers for jobs in the community. Second, it serves the needs of the forest itself. The 44,000 acre Headwaters Complex consists of six fragmented groves of old growth, connected by damaged cut-over lands. The rehabilitation of these damaged connecting lands is essential to the long term survival of the old growth. This is no make-work program--it is an integral part of ecosystem management, and an investment in the future productivity of the forest.

Number of Jobs:

Without an in-depth study, we cannot predict the exact number of jobs that would be lost through the creation of the Headwaters Complex. But based on the recent history of Pacific Lumber employment and cutting rates, an educated guess can be made. In the past six years since the MAXXAM takeover, Pacific Lumber has employed 1200-1300 people. About 80% of these jobs (or about 1040 workers) have been in cutting and milling old growth. During this time period MAXXAM has cut 8,000 acres of old growth. That translates to 650 jobs for six years. Adjusting for the fact that current environmental practices would not allow as much cutting as was done in the past, these figures can be rounded downward to about 400 jobs for six years (at Hurwitz cutting rates), or 200 jobs for twelve years (at pre-Hurwitz rates).

Severance Package:

The rehabilitation of the Headwaters Complex forest lands, however, will only create about 100 jobs, based on the estimates of people currently engaged in restoration work. Therefore, we need to offer a way for displaced workers to opt out of the timber job market. We propose a voluntary option plan for Pacific Lumber workers, that includes the following choices:

  • Priority hiring for Headwaters restoration jobs, at logger wages.
  • Incentives for early retirement.
  • Monetary assistance for relocation and job search.
  • Scholarships and monetary support for school or retraining.
  • Low interest loans for starting small businesses.
  • Or, if none of the other options are exercised, a lump sum severance payment.

These options would be offered by seniority, with more value being placed on those options that provide re-employment opportunities and less on the lump sum payment. By offering this option package, the number of people competing for the restoration jobs will be reduced to something in the neighborhood of the 100 jobs available. Although displaced Pacific Lumber workers will have priority for hiring, some non-Pacific Lumber workers with special skills in restoration work may also be hired if necessary.

Land Management:

The cut-over lands in the Headwaters Complex will be managed for the restoration of old growth characteristics, and for the general health of the ecosystem, including forests, soils, waterways, fisheries and wildlife. Since this type of restoration work is in its infancy, the Headwaters project can serve as a laboratory to learn the skills of ecosystem and habitat restoration.

Although the 5,000 acres of ancient forest in the Headwaters Complex must remain undisturbed, this plan does not call for the permanent lock up of all 39,000 acres of connecting cut-over connecting lands. After these lands are rehabilitated, and providing for stream protection, wildlife corridors, and other ecological considerations, the cut-over lands could be gradually brought back into sawlog production. Forestry methods would not resemble those of MAXXAM, however, and any form of depletion logging would be banned. Rather, the lands would be banned. Rather, the lands would be used to implement sustainable methods such as the Plenterung system of all-age all-species management, and/or the 150-year rotation system proposed by the Pacific Lumber Takeback Committee. In this way, the forest rehabilitation program will be an investment in the future, providing jobs and forests for our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Project Management:

One of the most important elements of a successful land rehabilitation program is that it be controlled by local people with a long-term interest in and knowledge of the community. For this reason, we propose that the Headwaters restoration project be set up as a locally controlled operation, and subcontracted only to locally controlled companies.

We also propose that, before Charles Hurwitz can receive any monetary benefit from the sale of Headwaters, he must be required to pay back the Pacific Lumber pension fund. This fund was looted of $90 million during the MAXXAM junk bond takeover of Pacific Lumber, and replaced with undecured annuities from the now bankrupt Executive Life Insurance Company. Pacific Lumber workers, both past and present, must be assured a guaranteed pension plan.

Costs:

The provision of 100 jobs at $30,000 a year (including wages and benefits) is only $3 million a year. In addition, the worker severance plan would cost about $10 million to implement, on a one-time basis. These amounts are minuscule compared to the $500 million or more that would be paid to Charles Hurwitz. They are also minuscule compared to the annual subsidy given by the Forest Service to the timber corporations in the form of below-cost sales for logging rights on National Forest lands. This subsidy reached $400 million a year during the Reagan / Bush era.

 

These small costs could also be offset by marketing the products of restoration. These include salvaged logs, overgrown tan oak, crowded young conifers that need thinning, and even mushrooms and floral greens. A value-added local industry using these products can be developed as part of the restoration project.

 

Conclusion:

The Forest Rehabilitation Jobs Program offers a viable plan to unite the needs of displaced timber workers for stable jobs in the community with the needs of the forest for restoration. The cost in monetary terms is insignificant, but the long term benefit to the community and the forest is great. This is a perfect opportunity to implement President Clinton's [alleged] ideas of ecosystem's management, and of putting America to work building for our future. By implementing this plan, we can serve at once the goals of social and ecological justice.