ATLANTA – On Wednesday, September 12, 2018 the PPRC, a grassroots organization of hourly employees of the paper and wood products industry, along with Management leaders from several different companies, co‐hosted a joint Labor/Management Conference. The purpose of this conference was to highlight the need to “Grow the Next Generation” of pulp and paper workers in America. It also emphasized the importance of both labor and management working together for a common cause, JOBS!
On that Wednesday morning, after a pledge and a prayer led by PPRC member Robert Gay, approximately 85 hourly and salary individuals watched PPRC Chairman David Wise present AF&PA President and CEO, Donna Harman, the Visionary Award. Chairman Wise said that President Harman is one of the greatest Ambassadors that our industry has to offer. She is a “true pillar” of the PPRC!
Following the agenda for the day everyone was greeted by Michael Amick Jr., Senior Vice‐President, Paper the Americas & India, of International Paper. He discussed Industry and Workforce Development. Mr. Amick said that our industry has a very proud past. He also said, by virtue of everyone being here, he doesn’t think our best days are behind us and he believes we have a bright future ahead of us.
After Mr. Amick spoke, the audience watched the PPRC recruiting video. Several PPRC members made this video and the PPRC uses it when they go recruiting other mills to participate in the PPRC organization. After the video, Mike Mauldin and Bill Kerr of Georgia‐Pacific, and Vinnie Geiser of WestRock all gave a brief talk on why we need new members in the PPRC. The speakers highlighted the need for new members and their ability to communicate with other people their age through social media avenues. There is also a need for younger people to get interested in skilled trades.
The next speaker was Donna Harman, President and CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA). Mrs. Harman thanked the PPRC for her Visionary Award. She went on to talk about how we must all now engage with the “New Generation” on Capitol Hill.
After Mrs. Harman, the CEO of the WestRock Company, Steve Voorhees, discussed “Growing the Next Generation”. Mr. Voorhees started by saying “Thank You” to all PPRC members. He talked about how we all came together when we hosted the Congressional Reception in the Capitol this past year. He commented on the impression it made on him knowing that WestRock had 27 PPRC representatives from 11 locations represented at the DC Fly‐In. Mr. Voorhees told us that WestRock is making appearances in Trade and High Schools and partnering with local colleges to help keep our industry alive.
The next speaker was Tim O’Hara, Manager & Policy Communications Director for the Forest Resource Association. Mr. O’Hara talked about our Industry’s Transportation Challenges. The challenges range from lack of drivers due to retirement and the future growth of this industry. There are also several factors such as insurance and regulations costs that seem to be hurting the transportation industry.
After Mr. O’Hara spoke, John Rooney, CEO of Graham‐Evergreen‐Closure System or GEC Packaging Technologies talked about “Helping a New Generation Understand Our Industry”. Mr. Rooney thanked the group for inviting him back and for our work that we do at the DC Fly‐In. Mr. Rooney said the top 3 issues for our industry is demand for our products, regulatory compliance, and making sure we are bringing new folks into our industry.
After Mr. Rooney spoke, Bill Moyers of Georgia‐Pacific, led the group in prayer for a lunch that was provided by Georgia‐Pacific.
After lunch, Russ Wanke, President and CEO of Expera Specialty Solutions, talked about “Why the Work of the PPRC is so Important”.
Mr. Wanke said that a lot of the work the PPRC does is around regulatory compliance. He said he is proud that our group is working with legislatures to “seek a balance” in their rule making. He went on to describe how the costs of regulatory compliance can directly affect not only the company and its’ workers but also the communities around them.
The next speaker was Christian Fischer, President and CEO of Georgia‐Pacific. Mr. Fischer emphasized “Innovations”. Mr. Fischer talked about how our industry has taken advantage of technology. Our industry has become very automated. He said young people should be attracted to our industry if we show how advanced we have become. Mr. Fischer said that technology can make us safer and more productive.
After Mr. Fischer, the next speaker was Donnie Colston, Director of the Utility Department at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union. Mr. Colston told us that the IBEW also has a large roll in the regulatory process. He said that the IBEW is proud to work with this industry on regulatory issues. Mr. Colston said that just 15 years ago the IBEW represented over 350,000 members in its manufacturing department. Today it is less than 100,000 members. Mr. Colston also talked about getting IBEW members trained in the “Code of Excellence” program which trains workers to have a sense of pride in their work. He also talked about the IBEW “Renew” Program, which stands for, Reach out and Engage the Next generation of Electrical Workers. It focuses on how we get the next generation engaged, how we teach them, and how we get them to understand what professionalism is.
The next speaker was Mark Rey, the Executive Director of the Forest Products Industry National‐Labor Management Committee. Mr. Rey discussed the importance of L&M working together to preserve our industry. Mr. Rey commented that the PPRC is approaching its 30‐year anniversary date. The PPRC started in 1989 when the Carpenter’s Union Officers came to the Forest Products Industry about the spotted owl issue and the way it was affecting jobs in the Pacific Northwest. Two years later, the PPRC was formed. He said he believes this group is the longest running labor/management organization working at the National level under the Taft‐Hartley Act. Mr. Rey said that now, we as an industry face air, water, and other environmental regulations. Mr. Rey also gave us information concerning the upcoming elections.
Chairman David Wise thanked all the speakers who took their time to discuss ways to grow the next generation. He also thanked the children of PPRC member, John Peacock, who took their own money and purchased the pens and divot tools that were given away as keepsakes. He also thanked WestRock who donated the cups and portfolios. Chairman Wise also thanked Georgia‐Pacific for sponsoring the lunch today and International Paper Company for sponsoring the meet and greet reception held last night. He then asked PPRC member Gerry Mims to close our conference in prayer.