The Alaska Journal of Commerce published an article titled "New life breathed into veneer plant" (Jan. 24)), but I don't expect to see long lines at our real estate offices or the new car dealerships any time soon.
Our Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor was quoted in the article as saying opening the former Gateway Forest products veneer mill is "good for the Ketchikan economy and good for the development of Ward Cove." We often hear the term "job creation" used in conjunction with economic stability. What we don't hear about is the quality of the jobs and how many taxpayer dollars have gone into the creation of jobs that are often times substandard and unsustainable.
As a state and a community, we need to consider what family living wage jobs with benefits for the blue collar workers actually means. The veneer mill doesn't seem to include those kinds of jobs. The Journal of Commerce article contained an interview with Ted Falconer, state of Washington timber consultant, who will be taking over the veneer mill. Mr. Falconer announced the opening of the veneer plant in Ward Cove "as near to May 1 as possible". Mr. Falconer went on to say that the "wages will be about $12 to $15 an hour, good enough for people to live off of." A 40 hour work week at $12 per hour would be $24,480 per year. In 1984, with a labor contract in place, the starting rate at the Ketchikan Pulp Mill was $11.30. That was 21 years ago. This proposal is a giant step back for working men and women. Falconer was also quoted as saying, " I am very prone to hiring ladies too, single parents, mothers who need jobs." He made no mention of medical benefits, retirement, child care, or working conditions in the interview. The working people deserve better than this veneer plan, and Ketchikan deserves better.
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