Jennifer Beard, pictured above, is a lab technician at the Ashdown Mill. Photo credit: United Steelworkers
The latest edition of USW@Work, a quarterly publication of the United Steelworkers union, features the healthy collaboration between mill management and union members at Domtar’s mill in Ashdown, Arkansas.
Several longtime employees and union members spoke about their careers at the mill and their desire to see it succeed for future generations.
“I take pride in my job, and I want to see the Ashdown Mill succeed,” says Donald Walker, a longtime mill employee who, after retiring in 2020, agreed to return to work part-time when Domtar decided to re-start the A62 paper machine.
The workforce at Domtar’s Ashdown Mill offers an example of positive collaboration between the company and United Steelworkers union members.
“The Ashdown Mill is one of the country’s premier pulp and paper facilities,” says United Steelworkers International Vice President Leeann Foster, a second-generation paper worker who oversees USW bargaining in the industry. “The members at Domtar should be very proud of their hard work and solidarity that has allowed them to become leaders in the industry.”
United Steelworkers union members and Domtar have worked diligently to build comprehensive health and safety systems and find ways to respond to one another’s concerns.
“You don’t always have to agree, but you have to have an open mind and listen,” says Sheila Wheeler, who has worked at the Ashdown Mill for more than 30 years. “It really takes both sides coming together and working together.”
Despite challenges during the pandemic, from supply chain concerns to worries about an economic downturn, colleagues worked together and with company leadership to make necessary changes to keep the mill thriving.
“We are proud not only of the products we make at Ashdown, but also of how we make them and how we work together,” says Ashdown Mill Manager J.C. Allaire. “Domtar and our USW workforce recognize that working well together benefits everyone in our mill and in our community.”