Layoffs at the Camas, Washington, paper mill begin this week, with up to 300 workers expected to lose their jobs.
Employees at the Georgia-Pacific mill have known about the layoffs since November when the company announced it was closing most of its production at the 134-year-old facility.
Georgia-Pacific spokeswoman Kristi Ward said the company will stagger the layoffs over the next month.
The mill is also beginning to shut down equipment, including the closure of paper machine No. 20 last week.
“We are working on our deconstruction plans for the shuttered equipment,” Ward wrote in an email. “We estimate that deconstruction will start taking place in mid-2019 and will take about two to three years to accomplish.”
Georgia-Pacific plans to keep 150 employees on staff to continue the mill’s paper towel production.
“Consumer demand remains strong in this business,” said Ward.
Greg Pallesen, president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper said the union has been trying to secure federal help in the form of trade adjustment assistance. Benefits include retraining assistance for workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign imports.
“There’s people who’ve worked there for 25 years that are losing their jobs,” said Pallesen.
The union is also working with the Washington State Labor Council and has hired two people to help laid-off workers with the transition.
Pallesen says the average Camas mill worker is in their late 40s, too young to retire. Many will likely be forced to take similar jobs for lower pay or go back to school to learn a new skill.
“These are family-wage jobs with benefits,” he said. “They’re just not going to find a replacement for the same pay any more.”