Bipartisan group of 50 legislators call on Woodland Pulp to agree to fair contract
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers have signed onto a letter urging Woodland Pulp in Baileyville to agree to a fair contract with striking union workers who have been off the job since mid-October, according to a news release from the Maine AFL-CIO.
The letter was signed by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) as well as House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor). In all, 50 lawmakers, mostly Democrats, signed the document.
“These hardworking mill workers sacrificed a great deal during the pandemic to produce some of the highest quality wood products in the world and they deserve to be treated with fairness and respect,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We urge you to negotiate with the workers in good faith and agree to a fair contract that protects job security and the core trades of your dedicated employees.”
The pressure from elected officials comes amid an ongoing contract dispute between workers and mill management. Multiple unions representing mill employees are currently on strike.
As Maine Morning Star reported previously, the dispute centers around a proposal by Woodland Pulp to designate workers at the company who specialize in specific trades as general mechanics. Under that scenario, a worker who was trained in a specialty, such as a diesel mechanic, could be pulled off the job to instead serve a much different role, such as a boiler operator, and would need to undergo a litany of training in that new field, critics said.
Joshua Kinney, president of IAM Local 1490 and an auto technician at Woodland Pulp, argued the plan would undercut the work employees have done to become experts in their field.
“I’ve done training in my core trade,” he told Maine Morning Star last month. “That’s what I’m familiar with and … that’s what I enjoy doing.”
In their letter, lawmakers also noted that the striking unions have filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against Woodland Pulp with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of bargaining in bad faith. The legislators called on the company to hold productive talks with workers.
“Workers are taking a stand against a proposal that threatens their job security and safety by introducing a new job classification that replaces millwright, pipefitter, machinists, and auto mechanic positions,” they said. “As elected officials, we support the workers and their unwavering commitment to protect their jobs and their community, which relies on the stability provided by good union jobs at Woodland Pulp.”