Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Wednesday, August 12th: Full Committee Meeting
1. Updates from conversations with Verso – Rep. Krug and others
Rep. Krug noted that the mill had now closed and asked task force members to weigh in with tasks or needs that they see in the community that may be going un-addressed. He noted that traffic is strong on www.rapidstogether.com which indicates that the community is seeking information and that the task force is being looked-to for information.
2. Updates on bargaining - union representatives, Verso representatives and others
Mike Glodowski, manager of the mill, reported that employment at the mill (formerly at 900+) is now down around 250-300 and that post-idle employment is expected to be around 125, assuming continued reliance on the mill by Sonoco and Nine Dragons (power plant, wastewater treatment).
Mike stated that Verso as of August 12 had an agreement with USW but not yet with the other unions representing Verso employees.
Tim Pavlik of USW 2-94 concurred with Mike, adding that under the agreement with USW health coverage would continue until the end of 2020. Tim acknowledged that there have been communication issues as the terms of the agreement were made known to employees; he relayed that office hours to communicate the terms had already been held and that meeting for individual employees would be held later in August as needed.
Regarding the TAA, it was noted that the petition has now been filed and that task force members should please consider sending letters in support of the petition to the US Department of Labor. Sen. Baldwin, Rep. Kind, and Rep. Tiffany have all sent such letters. The state legislators on the task force will do so now as well.
3. Updates from discussions with WEDC, DWD, Governor’s Office – Rep. Krug and others]
The offices of Sen. Baldwin, Rep. Kind, and Rep. Tiffany reported that they had sent letters to the US Department of Labor in support of the TAA petition.
Summaries of recent federal action on unemployment benefits and coronavirus stimulus payments were provided by the federal delegation and by State Reps. Shankland and Krug.
John Reinemann from Rep. Krug’s office provided figures from DWD on how DWD is faring on getting caught up with pending cases of unemployment assistance, which have been backlogged in recent weeks but on which DWD is making progress.
4. Update on Forestry/Logging committee issues
Henry Schienebeck of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association reported that he has had several meetings regarding GLTPA’s effort to form a cooperative to buy and run the mill. He noted that generally, plans for forming a coop must involve at least two groups from among the potential entity’s materials-producers (loggers), enterprise workers (mill employees), consumers (paper customers), local-community group(s), and investor group(s); and that as of August 12 the producer group (the logger group) had been formed and incorporated. He noted that the GLTPA steering group on the coop had started with GLTPA members, and would now be expanded to bring in expertise in technical and financial aspects of the coop project.
It was noted that the marketing and sale of the mill has been contracted to Moelis and Company. (As of August 12 the task force was still seeking a contact name at Moelis; that has since been obtained.) Henry noted that potential areas of interest regarding the sale, could include no-compete clauses, and that since these could affect the potential for future use of the mill, Henry will be discussing these with Moelis.
Henry introduced Margaret Bau, Cooperative Development Specialist with USDA Rural Development. Margaret introduced Kelly Maynard, Cooperative Development Specialist with the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. Both Cooperative Development Specialists have been assisting in the effort to create a coop for the Verso mill. They had a presentation which they shared with the group. (Their presentation is available here.)
After the presentation it was noted that GLTP and its new timber cooperative (known as the Timber Professionals Cooperative) is seeking experts who could conduct a further feasibility study on the Verso mill situation.
In questions after the presentation it was noted that under state law for cooperatives, no single person or entity may purchase 51% of a cooperative; a coop-owned mill could not be moved, closed, or sold on the wishes of any single person or entity with membership / ownership of a coop share.
WEDC was asked to review what assistance it could provide to the coop effort. WEDC Secretary Missy Hughes responded that WEDC would do so and that WEDC is interested in assisting and would be accessible to the effort. Stacey Johnson of WEDC noted that WEDC’s Target Industry program has already been brought into the project.
5. com: Group discussion on site status
Tari Jahns of the United Way of South Wood & Adams Counties reported that PSAs continue to air informing the community of resources available to Verso families, highlighting the Rapidstogether.com web site.
6. Future meetings and related issues
It was arranged that the next meeting would be scheduled as a “committee of the whole” meeting for 10.00 AM on Wednesday, August 26 at Mid-State.