For all of my adult life, I have worked in Maine paper mills that rely heavily on Maine’s waterways. For the past 27 years, I have spent many days with long hours at the Sappi Mill in Skowhegan.

In my elected capacity as a union leader, my focus has been to strike the balance of representing my members as well as assisting my company in an effort to maintain market share domestically and internationally. I have lobbied at our State House and in Washington on behalf of my company, and it is not always popular with the membership. But when you are a leader, you do what is in the best interest of not just your members, but also the company that provides the jobs.

My Nov. 30 op-ed outlined the struggle regarding the relicensing efforts for the Shawmut Dam (“Sappi union president: Mills should support dam relicensing“). Shortly after that, two separate responses from Republican senators, one in a weekly address from Brad Farrin and one in an op-ed by Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake (“Republicans were there every step of the way on Kennebec dam,” Dec. 7) reiterated a lot of the facts that I shared about the process, the dam owners, the governmental agencies involved and the Mills administration.

They also did their level best to tell folks, my members included, that I have it backwards and that they “were there every step of the way.”

Sen. Farrin suggested that someone from Brookfield penned my letter. For anyone that actually knows me, I have written thousands of letters, testimonials, Memorandums of Agreement, contract language, etc. — and no one ghost writes for me.

In gathering information while putting together my letter, I involved many people that are intimately involved with the process. I spent countless hours behind my computer. Every word was mine, with the exception of William Ball’s quote, which I had permission to use. Sen. Timberlake brings up L.R. 2047, which happened months prior to Brookfield pulling their request to start the process anew. Kudos to him for mentioning that the Senate president, a Democrat, voted for it in the Legislative Council.


My patience was worn thin after finding out that in October, Republicans legislative leaders voted to block a bill from the very same Senate president to support relicensing efforts in 2022. I am sorry but that does not represent being there “every step of the way.”

After, I wrote a letter in hopes that both parties and the Mills administration would stop playing politics with my member’s futures. And what did I get? Two politicians deflecting instead of leading.

A new legislative session is now upon us which gives all elected representatives an incredible opportunity. What we need in this session is actions. We need leaders. To be there “every step of the way,” you actually have to be there every step of the way, regardless of political affiliation.

The Senate president’s bill has garnered enough support from Democratic leaders that it will be scheduled for a public hearing. I will be there on behalf of my members and my company in support of the relicensing of the Shawmut Dam.

If Minority Leader Timberlake wants to be there “every step of the way,” he will lead his caucus with enough of his members to ensure that it’s veto-proof and that it passes into law.

Let’s leave the politics out of it. That’s what my members, my company and our communities deserve from our elected representatives.

Patrick Carleton is president of USW Local 4-9.

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