United Steelworkers Protest Sappi Labor Offer
Posted at: 10/23/2012 10:03 PM
| Updated at: 10/23/2012 10:15 PM
By: Travis Dill
Dozens of United Steelworkers were protesting outside of the Sappi paper mill in Cloquet on Tuesday.
“We're out here today on an informational picket, bringing the issues out to the pubic and the community,” Local 11-63 President Brady Nelson said.
Retiree benefits were the issue at hand for the workers. Nelson said workers rejected Sappi's offer earlier this month.
“The proposal would have split our local right down the middle. They were proposing to take some retiree benefits away from our members that had less than 15 years of service by the end of this year,” Nelson said.
The union represents nearly 400 workers at the mill. They have been working under an expired contract since May, when an extension automatically went into effect. More negotiations between Sappi and the union are scheduled for Oct. 30.
Nelson said Sappi has also requesting that employees pay a higher health care deductible.
“The concessions they are looking at are unfair and they're unnecessary, and these people just want to work here and make this a profitable mill, which they've done,” Nelson said.
Nelson says Sappi offered a two percent wage increase, but the local's vice president, Tim Dahl, says that isn't enough for some workers.
“Our wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living so we keep going backwards every time we have a labor agreement,” Dahl said.
In an email statement Sappi said the company is disappointed that employees rejected their offer earlier this month and that the offer included wage and pension increases. The company said the overall package is competitive within the industry.