May 22, 2019

Maryland and W.Va Officials Seek Meeting With Verso Chief | The Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Several Maryland and West Virginia elected officials are attempting to secure a meeting with interim Verso Corp. CEO Leslie Lederer before the Luke paper mill ceases production on May 31.

U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and U.S. Reps. David Trone (D-Md.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) sent a letter Monday to Verso executives in an attempt to arrange the meeting.

“Our constituents deserve to know what Verso Corporation’s plans are for the future of the plant,” the letter reads. “The workers at Luke Mill, many of whom are represented by United Steelworkers, deserve to be treated fairly in negotiations with Verso Corporation. We believe Luke Mill employees deserve consideration that is similar to what Verso Corp. provided to recently departed President and CEO Chris DiSantis.”

Verso announced April 30 that the mill would close June 31. On May 11, company officials said production would cease May 31.

About 700 on-site workers will be affected by the closure. Thousands of ancillary jobs could also be affected.

DiSantis resigned as the company’s CEO April 5 and Lederer was appointed interim CEO.

According to reports, DiSantis received $1.8 million and a prorated portion of his bonus for fiscal 2019 as part of a severance package.

The Luke mill began as the Piedmont Pulp and Paper Co. in 1888 by family patriarch William Luke. The company began acquiring timberland and, in 1897, changed the name to the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co. Subsequent generations of the Luke family operated the mill for decades. 

Luke became a mill town with the plant providing water and sewage service to the homes and steam heat for $20 a month.

“The surrounding communities in Maryland and West Virginia need answers regarding the continuation of services that are now at risk, including water supply and wastewater treatment.”

the letter continues. “The communities that have kept Luke Mill running since 1888 deserve better than to be left in the lurch.”

In 1969, the company changed its name to Westvaco. In 2001, Mead and Westvaco merged to become MeadWestvaco. The Luke family continued to provide leadership for the company.

However, in 2005 the mill was sold to Cerberus Capital Management and was named NewPage Corp. At that point, a Luke family member was no longer overseeing the mill for the first time in 117 years.

NewPage merged with Verso in 2015.


By:  Greg Larry