Millworkers vote to reject Woodland Pulp offer, continue strike
A strike at Woodland Pulp, Washington County’s largest employer, will continue—for now— after workers decisively voted late last week to reject an offer that they said was in some ways regressive.
Union workers at the mill represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 1490, the Service Employees International Union Local 330-3, and and Millwrights Local 1121 began their strike on Oct. 14 in what they describe as a collective stand for job security and for a fair contract that upholds their core trades.
On Tuesday, five picketing workers were arrested after the company called the police saying the individuals were blocking a gate—a charge the union representing the workers disputes, according to the Press Herald.
The unions engaged in discussions with Woodland Pulp alongside a federal mediator on Nov. 15. According to a media release, “the company’s revised final offer, presented at the end of the day, fell short of meeting the workers’ expectations. In some instances, the changes were deemed regressive compared to the initial offer that prompted the strike.”
The dispute centers around a proposal by Woodland Pulp to designate workers at the company who specialize in specific trades as general mechanics, IAM District 4 Business Representative Danny Loudermilk told Maine Morning Star last month. He said under that scenario, a worker who was trained in a certain trade, such as being a diesel mechanic, could be pulled off the job to instead serve in a much different role like being a boiler operator and would need to undergo a litany of training in that new field. Loudermilk said the change would increase the power of the company at the expense of union members.
After the meeting last week, workers across the three unions voted, with 74 members voting against the revised offer and only 4 voting for it, according to the release.
“We have notified the company of our decision and have requested their soonest available dates to resume negotiations in pursuit of a resolution,” said Loudermilk. “Our members remain steadfast in their determination to secure a fair and just contract that safeguards their job security and preserves the integrity of their core trades.”
The unions are scheduled to meet with company representatives on Tuesday for continued negotiations, according to Brendan Wolf, executive director of HR and safety at Woodland Pulp. When asked about how negotiations were going, specifically whether he saw the company’s offer as regressive, Wolf said he’d rather not discuss details of the bargaining table publicly at this time.