Members of United Steelworkers Local 9 hold signs as traffic passes Thursday during a rally at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall in Skowhegan. Workers say they seek a “fairer” contract with the Sappi North America Somerset Mill. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — Employees and union supporters lined Waterville Road on Thursday afternoon while holding signs and demanding a “fairer” contract with the Sappi North America Somerset Mill.

It was the latest rally aimed at spotlighting the ongoing dispute between the paper mill’s management and largest union.

Members of United Steelworkers Local 9 convened Thursday at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall. The union is the largest of four at the mill, representing 475 workers.

Members earlier this month overwhelmingly rejected the company’s latest and final contract offer, with 96% opposed to the proposed pact. As a result, dozens of workers last week lined Route 201, near the Somerset mill, to rally for a better contract.

Pat Carleton, president of USW Local 9, said the group met with company officials last week for the latest round of bargaining but did not come out of the meeting with an agreement. Additionally, a machine shut down the same day of the last rally prevented several employees from participating.

“We went back and met with the company and there was no change,” Carleton said. ” They came in with some hypotheticals, but they really didn’t initiate changes, so we’re back to the table.”



Sappi officials issued a statement this week on the recent meeting with union representatives. Officials said their most recent proposal contains a variety of new benefits, “including very competitive pay and benefits, an enhancement to the defined benefit pensions plan, wage increases of 9% over the life of the contract and a lump sum payment of $5,000 worth an additional 5.5% of the average union employee’s annual earnings.”

“We are disappointed that the Somerset mill employees represented by the United Steelworkers voted to reject our proposal,” the company said in a statement.

The proposed 9% pay increase would be split into thirds over the life of the three-year agreement.

“They offered a 3% raise each year, and we continue to lose purchasing power every time we sit at the table,” Carleton said. “This is another one of those situations where we’re going to lose out-of-pocket money on health care, and the wages that they’re offering are going to be eaten up by that.”

The union would like to see adjustments to wage increases, health care plan adjustments and better compensation and benefits for retirees.


Jake Duval, who has worked for Sappi North America for four years, arrived Thursday with his son, Parker, 5, to join the group along Waterville Road.

“I’m here to support our union brothers and sisters in trying to get the treatment we deserve from the place we dedicate so much time to,” Duval said. “(Parker Duval) is the reason right here why it’s important we get the contract we deserve. This little guy here is depending on it.”

Union member Jake Duval carries his son, Parker, 5, as they join a rally Thursday for United Steelworkers Local 9 at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall in Skowhegan. Duval of Sidney and others are holding signs seeking a “fairer” contract with the Sappi North America Somerset Mill. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Nate Thomas, another Sappi employee, said aside from better wages, he hopes to see “more seriousness about training,” among other benefits in a new agreement.

A lack of staffing and trained employees forced Thomas to work significant overtime hours without relief, he said.

Thursday’s rally at the banquet hall was expected to run into the evening, with speeches and remarks from Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and other supporters.

Carleton said he expects company and union officials to hold another negotiating session next Thursday.

Union member Nate Thomas, who has worked for five years at the Sappi North America Somerset Mill, gathers Thursday with other members of United Steelworkers Local 9 before they hold a rally outside the Poulin-Turner Union Hall in Skowhegan. Workers say they seek a “fairer” contract with Sappi. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel)


Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.