Each June, the Pulp & Paperworkers’ Resource Council invites hourly employees to attend the organization’s annual “fly in” to Washington D.C. During the week-long employee advocacy event, industry employees meet with congressional, agency and administration officials to discuss economic, policy and regulatory topics affecting U.S. forestry industry jobs.
The PPRC is a non-partisan grassroots organization led by hourly employees dedicated to conserving the environment while considering the economic stability of the workforce and their surrounding communities. Representing 13 pulp and paper member companies, the organization advocates for policies that encourage economic growth, abundant and sustainable fiber supply, and sensible science-based environmental policies.
“Each year we go to influence legislation that has a chance to affect our jobs,” says David Wise, PPRC national steering committee chairman and southeast region director. “We represent the hourly workers’ voice. Our goal is to talk to legislators and let them know how what they’re doing is affecting our jobs.”
Domtar Workers Join Employee Advocacy Event
This year, four Domtar employees — Scott Cherry from our Johnsonburg Mill, Mike Kilgore from our Ashdown Mill, and Darrell Wall and Eric Pulliam from our Hawesville Mill — were among the more than 70 workers representing 50 mills and 21 states who participated in the 31st annual event.
For Cherry, a maintenance mechanic and 41-year Johnsonburg Mill employee, this was his third year taking part in the fly in.
“I really enjoy going to Capitol Hill and talking the congresspeople and their staffs,” he says. “They’re very receptive to everything we do and very considerate of our issues. Ninety-eight percent of our meetings were great.”
(Photo: Johnsonburg Mill employee Scott Cherry (right) and Westrock employee Chris Polcyn (left) pose for a photo after a meeting with Pennsylvania Representative Glenn Thompson.)
PPRC Event Raises Awareness of Industry Concerns
Throughout the week, Cherry, Kilgore, Wall and Pulliam took part in some of the PPRC’s approximately 365 visits with members of Congress to discuss several topics and their potential effect on American jobs including:
- Improving the health of federal forests — The PPRC supports measures to better manage forests to increase resilience and growth in the wake of fires, hurricanes, disease, insects and natural disasters.
- Reforming the Endangered Species Act — Protecting truly endangered species is in the best interests of the public. The organization believes the impact on people, property and jobs should be evaluated when making regulations and that act should be modernized and updated with Congressional oversight on the social and economic costs of an ESA listing.
- Paper recycling as an environmental success story — The organization believes highly recycled paper products should not be included in federal extended producer responsibility legislation. The U.S. paper recycling rate was 68 percent in 2021. The recycling rate for old corrugated containers was 91.4 percent. According to the EPA, by weight, more paper is recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than metals, plastics and glass combined.
- Improving U.S.-based sustainable manufacturing and addressing the regulatory burden — The PPRC recommends the Environmental Protection Agency consider the cumulative impact of upcoming regulations with the goal of achieving sustainable regulation that meets economic and environmental needs and social expectations.
“As co-chair of the bipartisan, bicameral house paper and packaging caucus, I’m honored to meet with the PPRC representatives every year when they come to Washington, D.C. to advocate for their priorities and promote this important sector of our economy,” says Oregon Representative Kurt Schrader.
The week-long employee advocacy event is a significant time commitment to those who attend. Cherry, Kilgore, Wall and Pulliam arrived on Friday, June 17. They spent the weekend in briefings in preparation for the week’s scheduled meetings, which they attended all day Monday through Thursday before debriefing Thursday evening and traveling home on Friday, June 24.
“It’s definitely a long week but it’s worth it,” Cherry says. “[The congresspeople and their staffs] would rather talk to people on the ground who know the situation, can explain what’s happening and how it affects regular people.”
The U.S. forest products industry is vitally important to our nation’s economy, employing approximately 950,000 people. We rank among the top 10 manufacturers in 45 states and represent four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing gross domestic product (GDP).
“The importance of clear, common-sense legislation and regulatory policy cannot be understated, as that foundation is vital to supporting continued growth of manufacturing jobs in rural and urban communities and ensuring a competitive playing field for the American forest products industry in the global market,” Wise says.