As published in the Bellingham Herald on January 19th, 2002
During the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2001, Georgia-Pacific West Inc. shut down its chlorine plant and pulp mill operations. This resulted in the loss of about 250 jobs in our community.
G-P didn't dump its employees onto the street. The Association of Western Pulp and Paper Worker's union, Georgia-Pacific West Inc. and the Employment Security Department cooperated in an effort to make the transition from employment to unemployment and to re-employment as smooth as possible.
The result was a generous severance package, unemployment benefits, re-employment assistance and worker retraining benefits under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Many of the workers took advantage of the educational benefits by signing up for courses at Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College and other training facilities. Many of these students are graduating from their training facilities.
They left G-P as chlorine cell renewers, back tenders and acid makers. They are returning to the work force as commercial truck drivers, paralegals and medical assistants.
These employees came to G-P as productive members of our community and they are returning to the workforce as productive members of our community.
The employees union, G-P and the Employment Security Department implemented a win-win program that will pay dividends back to our community for years to come.
Sheila L. Richardson