Union draws crowd

Published 8:03 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
The rain and thunder that greeted 500 union members at Fort Crawford Park Monday night was appropriate, United Steelworkers official Stan Johnson said.
Johnson, director of the Southeast's union Region 9, said they came in support of Brewton mill workers, many of whom are in the middle of interviews with Georgia-Pacific, which bought the mill for $355 million this month. The deal, expected to be final at the end of the month, is an asset sale, which guarantees transfer of the property but not the employees and their contracts.
Mill employees are being terminated by Smurfit-Stone and must reapply for their jobs with Georgia-Pacific.
Johnson has publicly criticized Smurfit-Stone for the way it sold the mill, claiming the company had a verbal agreement with the union to guarantee successorship for the employees. But Smurfit officials said no deal was in place.
Johnson said Monday night's prayer vigil was an &#8220amazing show of solidarity” by the out-of-town union members.
Holding candles and huddling under cover of the bandstand, the union members sang &#8220We Shall Overcome” and prayed.
The Rev. H.K. Matthews of Brewton said Smurfit-Stone followed a different sort of Golden Rule - &#8220Do unto others and run,” he said.
Brewton resident Tommy Jernigan, who has worked at the mill for 32 1/2 years, thanked the union members for coming to the event.