Cloquet paper mill workers to vote on strike

  • Article by: DEE DePASS
  • Star Tribune
  • December 4, 2012 - 6:03 PM

About 400 members of the United Steelworkers will vote Friday on whether to strike the Sappi Fine Paper plant in Cloquet over a contract proposal that cuts retiree benefits for newer employees.

The vote comes about a week after union members authorized a strike vote. Of the roughly 715 workers at the mill, 408 are represented by the Steelworkers (USW). The USW represents workers from various industries, including paper, nursing, taconite and steel.

USW members in the Cloquet plant are reportedly upset that management has proposed a contract that would cut retirement benefits for employees who have been with the company less than 15 years.

The union and management have been negotiating on a contract for months but so far have failed to find agreement. The last contract expired in May.

USW officials in Minnesota were unavailable to comment. Brady Nelson, president of USW Local 11-63 in Cloquet, was also unavailable.

In October, members of Local 11-63 picketed the Sappi mill after managers made their latest contract offer. Tensions have run high since.

Last Wednesday, officials from Sappi Fine Paper North America headquarters in Boston issued a statement saying they were "disappointed" their USW mill employees in Cloquet "have authorized their leadership to call a strike if it chooses to do so."

Officials emphasized that "such a vote is not uncommon and does not mean a strike will occur."

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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