Members of the United Steelworkers Local 9 joined with others during a rally in February near the Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan to call for a new contract. The union and Sappi announced this week that a new three-year agreement has been reached. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

SKOWHEGAN — After months of negotiations, the largest union at Sappi North America’s Somerset Mill in Skowhegan has reached an agreement with the company on a new three-year contract.

The contract involving United Steelworkers Local 9 includes a 3% pay increase each year of the contract, a $5,000 payout to each employee, enhancements to pension and accident/sickness insurance, and no increase in out-of-pocket health care costs.

“For many months, the company questioned our solidarity. The members spoke loud and clear,” said Patrick Carleton, president of United Steelworkers Local 9. “After working in the plant through the pandemic, this contract offer represents the dedication and commitment to keep our company profitable in our markets. It was long overdue.”

The Maine AFL-CIO said in a statement this week that the ratification amounts to “the most lucrative package for members” since Sappi purchased the mill in 1995.

“During this process, (USW Local 9 members) were able to increase purchasing power, keep out-of-pocket costs for health insurance in check, and protect pensions and build union solidarity,” the statement said.

USW Local 9 is the largest of four unions at the mill, representing around 465 workers.


USW members and supporters held two rallies last month demanding a fairer contract with Sappi after 96% of members had rejected the company’s previous offer.

Members at one point had voted to authorize a strike within 10 days if a deal couldn’t be reached. A 10-day notice was issued to management with the plan to go on strike last Monday. But prior to that, meetings were held where “the company finally pledged not to increase out-of-pocket health insurance costs unless premiums rise over 14%,” according to the AFL-CIO statement.

The company also committed to a lump-sum payout to those who retired after the last contract expired and before the latest ratification.

“Members rejected the company’s proposal again last week, but with the strike looming, Sappi reached out to meet with the bargaining team on March 18 and both parties reached a tentative agreement,” the AFL-CIO said.

Sappi officials said in a statement this week that they were “pleased that Somerset Mill employees represented by the United Steelworkers voted to accept our proposal, which contains a number of significant improvements for our employees.”

The company declined to answer questions when contacted this week.

Maine AFL-CIO officials said that IAM 2740 and IBEW 1768, two other unions at the mill representing millwrights and electricians, respectively, have ratified their contracts already. The fourth one at the mill, an independent union representing guards, is not currently in negotiations.

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