Local mill workers concerned as negotiations continue with Georgia Pacific

Published: Jun. 7, 2017 at 11:14 PM EDT
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By: Erin Lisch

June 7, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A labor dispute at the Foley Cellulose Mill is putting hundreds of jobs in question, leaving many locals worrying about the future.

The pulp mill owned by Georgia Pacific is under fire from a labor union. Negotiations are currently ongoing between GP and the United Steel Workers Union.

The current offer is not being disclosed, but the union president tells WCTV if they can't come to an agreement, there is a chance workers will walk out.

Foley Cellulose has been a part of the Perry, Florida community for decades. The mill was bought by Georgia Pacific in 2013.

While GP says they've been negotiating in good faith, the labor union, which is representing 400 workers, says enough is enough.

United Steel Workers Union local chapter President Howard Pickels said, "It's just unreal how the way they're being treated and their annual wages being cut the way they are. And the benefits the way they are, the healthcare being cut, it's just sickening to my stomach."

The idea of a possible work stoppage is worrying local businesses.

For Yarbrough Tire and Service, 30 percent of their sales come from GP employees.

Yarbrough Tire and Service's Geoffrey Price said, "These are people in our community that greatly support our business, and if anything happened to that business, of course it would detrimental to both our business and the town."

There's no clear answer from GP officials on if they would renegotiate if the union denies the offer.

Georgia Pacific's Scott Mixon said, "The most important thing is the long term success of Foley Cellulose and how we can be as competitive or more competitive in the global cellulose market today."

The mill employs 17-20 percent of workers in Taylor County.

Many others are hoping this deal doesn't go sour.

"Right now we just keep going the way we are and say our prayers like anything else. Hope the best for the business and best for the community," said Price.

Union officials say they will present the offer to their members at a meeting near the end of the month. They'll then determine if they will sign a new contract or deny what is presented.