Seven Domtar colleagues joined nearly 90 other pulp and paper workers from across the United States in Washington, D.C. in February to educate elected officials and advocate for our industry.
The employees took part in a fly-in sponsored by the Pulp & Paperworkers' Resource Council (PPRC), a grassroots organization of hourly employees in the forest products industry.
The PPRC brings pulp and paper workers to the capital annually to speak with members of Congress and administrative officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Office of Management and Budget, and other government agencies on issues affecting American manufacturing jobs in the industry.
This year, the group made more than 550 visits with members of Congress and administrative officials to discuss the effects of legislative and regulatory decisions on the environment and on people who make their living in forest products manufacturing. These pulp and paper workers represented 57 mills in 22 states.
Among the representatives was Joe Jordan III, who works in the woodyard at Domtar's Plymouth Mill.
"The experience for me was exciting and educational," he says. "I had the opportunity to see behind the scenes of the House and Senate. It was interesting to see how little they know about or understand the paper and pulp industry."
PPRC representatives discussed several issues with members of Congress, advocating for sensible legislation and regulations in the following areas:
- Renewable biomass energy -- The PPRC calls on the EPA and Congress to recognize the carbon neutrality of bioenergy produced at paper and wood products mills.
- Air permitting -- The PPRC recommends that new Clean Air Act rules consider environmental, social and economic impacts to set sustainable standards and policies to keep our mills competitive and promote job growth.
- Improving the health of federal forests -- The PPRC supports measures to better manage our forests to increase resilience and growth in the wake of fires, hurricanes, disease, insects and natural disasters.
- Reforming the Endangered Species Act (ESA) -- Forest products industry employees support ESA reform. The impact on people, property and jobs should be evaluated when making the regulations.
- Paper recycling -- Highly recycled paper products should not be included in extended producer responsibility legislation.
Domtar colleagues met with lawmakers
In addition to the meetings in Congressional and administrative offices, the PPRC representatives attended a reception hosted by the American Forest & Paper Association. Several members of Congress stopped by to express support for the industry, including Reps. Lou Correa and Dan Newhouse of California, who are leaders of the Paper and Packaging Caucus. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, another caucus leader, also attended.
At the event, Domtar pulp and paper workers encouraged members of Congress to join the caucus and support our industry.
William Lynn, a longtime employee of the Plymouth Mill, says he appreciated the chance to be heard by Congress.
"This group gave us a chance to let our government know what is needed to help our industry," he says. "I just never knew our word would be listened to. It was a great feeling knowing we could make a difference."
This was the first time Darrek Johnson of the Johnsonburg Mill attended the event.
"When I was asked to attend the PPRC, I wasn't sure what to expect," he says. "It was amazing seeing the turnout we had, and all of the different companies and unions that were represented. Meeting with congresspeople and their staffers on our pulp and papermaking industry was something I never saw myself doing. Now that I have, I can't wait to go back."
Eric Pulliam, from Hawesville, was a returning participant. He met with Rep. Brett Guthrie, whose district includes the Hawesville Mill, and stopped Sen. Rand Paul for a quick talk in the cafeteria. "I think it is something special when a group of employees in the paper industry, from across the country, and from different employers, come together as one to take our concerns to lawmakers on Capitol Hill," he says.