The Georgia-Pacific mill, Muskogee’s largest private employer, is laying off workers today, according to workers at the mill and a company spokesman.
Georgia-Pacific has not confirmed the specific number of people being laid off, but workers say it is 90 people in the commercial lines. Commercial lines are products used in hotels, restaurants and hospitals.
Eric Abercrombie, media relations representative at the company, said he’s not sure the specifics on the Muskogee mill.
“We are adjusting in operations based on market conditions,” he said. “But I’m not sure specifically about the Muskogee mill.”
He said a Muskogee representative will call to discuss details. We will report those here when they do.
The mill has been in operation in Muskogee since 1976, when it was owned by Fort Howard, which later merged with the James River Corporation in 1997 to form Fort James, and was acquired by Georgia-Pacific in 2000. Georgia-Pacific was bought by Koch Industries in 2005 and taken private.
If the 90 layoffs number is accurate, it represents more than 10 percent of the mill’s workforce.
UPDATE 12:30 P.M.: Jennifer Rector from the Muskogee mill called to clarify.
The number of employees being laid off today is 80, not 90, but it’s still 10 percent of the mill’s total workforce.
“These are short-term, temporary layoffs,” she said. “People aren’t traveling as much as they used to or going out to restaurants because of the COVID pandemic, so market demand isn’t there for the commercial products.”
The mill’s commercial lines can’t easily be reconfigured to manufacture other products, she said, so the mill decided for layoffs similar to furlough; when the market picks back up, those employees will be able to return.
“Unemployment is beneficial right now because of the CARE act,” she said. “Therefore, we believe our employees will still be okay.”
Company benefits will still be active for the laid-off workers for up to 12 weeks.