Editor’s note: The following editorial was written before Wednesday’s announcement that Boise Casade would be closing its La Grande sawmill.
The nation is teetering on the brink of an economic depression. Millions of jobs have been lost. Businesses are filing for bankruptcy. Some are closing. Corporate profits have nosedived, as have tax revenues that provide for public services. And millions of people have lost their homes.
These are desperate times. Everyone — from public sector to private sector workers — needs to be willing to give a little. To sacrifice, whether it is giving up a couple of work days a month or accepting a salary freeze. Or both, as many of us in the private sector have.
So it came as a surprise last week when we learned that Boise Cascade’s union employees rejected an amendment to their contract that would have eliminated negotiated pay raises and scaled back holidays and vacation time.
Union employees at three wood products companies voted on the proposal. Had the employees of any of the three accepted the concessions, the changes would have gone into effect at the company or companies that voted in favor. But that didn’t happen. A solid majority voted against the concessions. Union reps told The Observer this week that many jobs have been eliminated and that members have endured layoffs and bumping to lower pay grades. Now, though, the sad fact is even more of them could find themselves, or at the very least their less senior co-workers, without jobs as wood products companies continue to scale back or, in some cases, close plants.
We can only hope that doesn’t happen in Boise’s Inland Region, where four mills are the driving force of the private-sector economy in Union County. The union members, in rejecting the concessions, might have thought they were protecting their turf, their well-being, their families. In reality, they may have jeopardized more jobs. This recession isn’t about posturing. For companies, it’s about staying in business. For workers, it’s about having a job. Times really are that desperate.
Everyone needs to be willing to give a little and maybe a lot for the good of the whole. That’s the reality we are in. These are tough times.
We hope Boise can keep its remaining mills open. But the contract vote virtually guaranteed that something will have to give. Let’s just hope that it’s only some jobs, not all. Northeast Oregon needs Boise Cascade and its workers.