The news that Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. will permanently shutter its Frenchtown mill on Dec. 31 came as "a shock" to the plant's 342 unionized workers this morning, says Roy Houseman, president of the United Steelworkers Local 885. According to Houseman, Smurfit-Stone's Division Vice President Larry Price and Director of Human Resources Jim Sanders announced the closure to employees and union reps at 8 a.m. today.
Houseman says he will represent union members at a Jan. 5 severance package bargaining with Smurfit-Stone officials, where the company plans to begin discussing continued transitional contributions to laid-off employees. How long Houseman's involvement in those negotiations will last is uncertain, as the steelworkers union recently voted Robert Johnson its new president. Johnson will take office on Jan. 14.
Houseman, who was recently elected to serve Ward 2 on City Council, told the Independent Monday afternoon that he plans to continue as a spokesman for the union as long as he is needed. “I’ll be continuing to be the spokesman for the next few weeks," Houseman says, "and I’m really happy that the people out there have given me the opportunity to do so for the last two years.”
Pick up the Dec. 17 issue of the Independent for more on the Frenchtown mill closure.