USW Announces New Agreement at MeadWestvaco Mahrt, Alabama Paper Mill

Contact: Stan Johnson (615) 495-9636

Mahrt, Ala.—The United Steelworkers (USW) today announced the ratification of a new labor agreement at MeadWestvaco’s Mahrt, Alabama paper mill covering some 540 workers. The agreement, which will expire on October 31, 2013, provides an immediate $3,000 lump sum bonus payable to production and maintenance employees, plus an immediate general wage increase of 2% which will be retroactive to November 3, 2008.  The new agreement contains wage increases totaling 10.5% over the contract’s term.

“The new six year agreement provides USW members at Mahrt with wage, benefit and other provisions that are comparable with the better pacts being negotiated in the paper industry.  At a time when the economy and paper industry are experiencing such significant difficulties, this agreement is an impressive achievement by the USW local unions in Mahrt,” said USW Executive Vice President Jon Geenen, who is responsible for the USW’s national paper bargaining.

“By sticking together, the Mahrt membership achieved a far better result than the type of contract MeadWestvaco was expecting when it entered into these negotiations,” said Stan Johnson, USW District 9 Director.  “Throughout the process, the USW provided the Local Union leaders at Mahrt all the assistance and guidance they requested as they fought to bring improvements to our members at the mill,” added Johnson. 

Both Johnson and Geenen said they recognized that the fourteen month negotiation process was difficult and some goals were not achieved.  However, the overwhelming ratification of the proposal indicated that the Mahrt membership appreciates the value of what has been achieved.

The agreement also provides a 16.2% increase in monthly pension plan benefits.  Benefits will be improved in two steps, with an immediate increase in the monthly pension for each year of service rising from $43 to $46, retroactive to November 1, 2007, and an additional increase from $46 to $50, effective November 1, 2009.  With these improvements, the pension for an employee retiring with 40 years of service will increase from $1,720 to $2,000 per month.

The agreement contains numerous other improvements and protections, including increases in active and retiree life insurance; accident and sickness benefits; dental benefits; and vision benefits.  While the new agreement contains some increases in employees’ costs for medical and prescription drug benefits, these increases are at least partially offset by a 20% reduction in the amount employees are required to pay towards the monthly premium cost of the medical plan, beginning in 2009.  In addition, the union has negotiated new contract language to protect employees from any negative changes in benefits during the term of the new agreement.

The USW represents 850,000 members, including 130,000 in the paper and forestry products sector and more than 4,000 MeadWestvaco workers at 19 facilities throughout the U.S.

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