Saint John — As hundreds forestry workers and supporters gathered Monday to urge the federal government to demand a softwood lumber deal with the United States, several non-union forestry workers are contesting that they are unfamiliar with softwood entirely.
Fifty-three-year old Darrel Rouse, who has worked in lumber ever since he bagged his first hardwood at 13, says that he had never once, in his long career, dealt with softwood.
“Soft…wood?” said Rouse, with a nervous cough. “Never heard of the stuff. Alls I got is hard wood — real hard wood. I deal in bulk, too.”
He gave a little nod to signal that he was finished talking, pulled his hat down over his eyes and pretended to read the “business” section of the newspaper.
The Manatee spoke with Brooke Rodgerson, a second-year psychology major at St. Thomas University, about why some forestry workers may be so ashamed of their trade.
“When they first start out, they often have no problem getting hardwood,” explained Rodgerson, “But, you know, once they get to a certain age, it’s not as easy to get a hardwood. Broad-leaved trees are harder to come by, and from what I understand, much more difficult to cut down.
“Some find that that getting a decent hardwood is next to impossible, and they’ll often start to disappoint clients, not being able to offer anything more than their feeble softwood. It’s no wonder they’re so touchy about it.”
Executive Director of Forest NB Mike Legere said he thinks that the U.S. is preying on the insecurity of the non-union workers to halt progress on a fair softwood deal.
“Look, I understand their frustration. It’s a bummer when all you can get is softwood,” said Legere. “Which, I believe, is all the more reason to join the union. After all, I find it’s a lot easier to get hardwood when you’re in a large group and everyone’s working together to get the job done.”