PITTSBURGH, May 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- United Steelworkers (USW) members at Wausau Paper's Rhinelander, Wis., and Mosinee, Wis., mills and the Thilmany mill in Kaukauna, Wis., today ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with KPS Capital Partners in anticipation of the private equity firm successfully creating the largest specialty paper company in North America.
"We are proud of the leadership that our local unions have shown in bringing their respective memberships together to ratify this important deal in the specialty paper sector," said USW President Leo W. Gerard. "This particular piece of the industry still has enormous growth potential and has long been in need of a new strategic vision to capitalize on that opportunity."
USW local 2-00015 and local 01778 represent the workers at the Rhinelander mill. USW local 2-00221 and local 2-00316 represent workers at the Mosinee mill. USW local 2-00020 represents workers at the Kaukauna, Wis., mill. This agreement represents a new beginning for about 1,400 paper workers at these three mills."The overwhelming vote makes a powerful statement about how our members are committed to ensuring the long-term viability of these plants," said USW International Vice President Jon Geenen, who heads the union's paper sector. "Moreover, these negotiations serve as a model and reminder of the value of working hard together to solve problems in ways that workers, investors and communities all win." The new four-year agreement protects workers' interests and enables KPS to harness the hard work ethic and dedication of these highly skilled workers. The agreement includes wage increases, benefit improvements, and it locks in retirement security. "The approach KPS took in working through these negotiations to create a world-class paper company should serve as a reminder to hostile short-sighted venture capitalists—and even our own state government—that a big part of value creation is people sitting down together to solve difficult problems," said USW District 2 ( Wisconsin and Michigan) Director Michael Bolton. Since early this year USW has been in discussions with KPS about the possibility of a deal that would create a new specialty paper company that would invest in the mills; prime itself for growth in the specialty paper market; be able to compete in the world market; provide good, family-supporting jobs; and ensure the economic vitality of the communities where the mills are located.