Flambeau River Papers writes a new chapter in history of U.S. paper industry

When the soaring price of natural gas drove Smart Papers Mill into bankruptcy in 2006, the people of Park Falls, Wisconsin were faced with the loss of 300 local jobs. In a city with less than 3,000 residents, that job loss would have done major, if not irreparable, damage to the community.

Luckily for Park Falls, entrepreneur Butch Johnson stepped in to make sure that mill’s former employees weren’t left out in the cold. Johnson rehired nearly all of the mill’s workers, saving hundreds of other local jobs in the process. And he didn’t just give the mill’s employees their jobs back—he honored their existing union contract, including pay, benefits, and seniority. For their part, those union employees brought their knowledge of the paper industry to the table, and Johnson considers his employees’ union, United Steelworkers Local 2-0445,  “an integral part of the success of the company.”

Johnson’s company, now called Flambeau River Papers, produces premium recycled paper used by commercial printers and envelope-makers. Its paper is produced from 100 percent chlorine-free pulp, composed of up to 100 percent post-consumer waste, and almost entirely sourced from the United States. The company is also planning a biofuel plant that will turn wood byproducts into green diesel fuel and wax, and produce enough steam to power the mill itself. That means that by 2013, the pulp and paper mill will be the first in North America to operate fossil fuel free.

At a time when labor and environmental priorities are all too often presented as a zero-sum game, Flambeau’s story sends a powerful message to the Big Business naysayers: It’s time to create good, green jobs in this country—our workers, our economy, and our world are depending on it. And with responsible and sustainable companies like Flambeau leading the way, we’re off to a good start.

Read about the other companies profiled in our 2010 Labor Day List here!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • Print
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 at 5:31 pm and is filed under General, Jobs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Flambeau River Papers writes a new chapter in history of U.S. paper industry”

  1. Bill says:

    I remember working as a contractor at a papermill in Ypsilanti MI. They were having financial trouble and the owner told the union that if they would forgo this years raise, or at least postpone it for 6 months, they may get in a better financial position. If they didn’t forgo or postpone they were going to have to lay off some people. The union stewards told him they weren’t going to forgo or postpone and he could lay off people if they wanted because it wouldn’t affect them.

    This papermill at one time could put out 150000lbs of fine paper (color, caliper, and basis weight all great) in a week with no problem. But they got to the point that if they had 150000 or 50000lbs it would take them the whole week. They would purposely mess it up to keep working and the sales team couldn’t effectively tell a customer how long it would take to get their order.

    The owner finally had enough and just closed the mill. As a result, everyone lost their job. The union really did a good job for them. It got them all put on unemployment.

Leave a Reply