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Union Authorizes Strike of Mill Workers at Woodland Pulp

Baileyville, Maine, USA 24 December 2015 -- (From The Bangor Daily News) -- The members of United Steelworkers Local 27 employed at Woodland Pulp LLC have authorized a strike. But both union and mill officials hope it won't come to that.

"We are going back to the bargaining table to resolve our differences," Duane Lugdon, union staff representative for Maine, said Wednesday.

Woodland Communications Manager Scott Beal agreed later in the day that no one wanted to see a strike occur.

"We continue to talk with their negotiating team and remain optimistic that we can work through the remaining issues of concern, thereby bringing these negotiations to a successful conclusion for both parties," he said.

The union represents about 113 workers at the mill, about one third of the total workforce, according to Beal and Lugdon.

Lugdon wouldn't say how many of the union members voted on Tuesday or what the actual tally was, but he confirmed that the majority authorized a strike, though that does not mean they intend to strike.

"Essentially, it gives us the ability to say to the employer that we have the strike potential in our pockets," he said. "Sometimes that's meaningful to the employers. Sometimes it's not."

The union members, who operate the pulp mill, have been working under the terms of the previous three-year contract, which expired in August, Lugdon said.

"There have been [two] offers made by the employer," Lugdon said. "Each of these offers has been rejected."

He declined to comment on the issues separating the union and the mill or to provide details on the two offers.

Beal also declined to comment on any of the specifics regarding negotiations.

Lugdon said the parties would return to the negotiating table on Dec. 30.

The company has been moving forward on a plan to install two new tissue machines, one in the first quarter of 2016 and the other in the second quarter. The firm has already hired about 70 people with plans to hire another 10 to run the new machines, Beal said in October.

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