Five picketers at a Washington County pulp producer were arrested Monday, according to a union official who denied accusations that strikers were blocking a gate.

Just last week, members of several unions representing the workers rejected Woodland Pulp’s latest contract offer, extending the dispute that began in mid-October.

The union representing workers at the Baileyville plant said between 30 and 40 were picketing outside the mill at the time of Monday’s arrests. The Baileyville Police Department did not return two phone calls seeking confirmation of the arrests or the charges.

A spokesman for Woodland Pulp said the company called police because some picketers were blocking a gate.

Employees have been on strike since about 90 union members walked off the job Oct. 14. The company employs more than 300 workers.

In announcing their intent to strike last month, workers said management was trying to change job classifications that would endanger job security. Specifically, they alleged management was attempting to replace millwright, pipefitter, machinist and auto mechanic positions with a general mechanic classification.


“It’s not about money,” said Danny Loudermilk, a business representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1490. “It never has been. It’s been about protecting core trades.”

Brendan Wolf, executive director of human resources and safety at Woodland Pulp, said changing job classifications would improve the efficient and effective use of the workforce.

Woodland Pulp has hired temporary replacement workers during the strike. Wolf said the plant is functioning, but he would not comment on “internal operations.”

On Thursday, members of the machinists union, along with others represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 330-3 and Millwrights Local 1121, rejected a revised offer from the company by a 78-4 vote. They turned down the proposal following a federal mediator’s intervention.

The temporary replacement workers have made it possible for strikers to collect unemployment insurance benefits. For more than 15 years, Maine’s unemployment compensation laws have allowed workers in labor dispute work stoppages to collect unemployment if the company can maintain “substantially normal operations.”

Loudermilk said one IAM member and four others were arrested Monday. One was fined for “apparent disorderly conduct,” he said, but he wasn’t sure about the others.

Several supporters from a union representing workers at Bath Iron Works joined the picket line Monday. They were “walking back and forth,” Loudermilk said, but did not block traffic and were not among those arrested.

The Woodland mill is owned by St. Croix Tissue Co., based in Canada. Its parent company, the International Grand Investment Corp., is a U.S.-based company held by a Chinese investment firm.

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