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Maine Legislature Votes on Party Lines to Pass Bill to Create Commission to Develop Solutions to Forced Overtime in Paper Industry

Andy O’Brien
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The Maine House voted 82-66 and the Maine Senate voted 22-12 this week in support of a measure that would create a special commission to examine the damaging practice of mandatory overtime in paper mills and recommend solutions to limit forced overtime.

LD 1794 An Act to Enhance the Predictability of Mandated Overtime for Pulp or Paper Manufacturing Facility Employeewould establish the Commission on Predictability of Mandated Overtime for Pulp or Paper Manufacturing to examine the impact of forced overtime on workplace and public safety, employee morale and the ability of pulp or paper manufacturing facilities to hire employees and to recommend solutions - and bring forth legislation if needed - to address this issue.

The vote was on party lines in the Senate, but in the House Reps. Clarence Albert (R-Madawaska) and Jennifer Poirier (R-Skowhegan), both of whom have paper mills in their districts, voted for the bill. Rep. Rachel Henderson (R-Rumford), who represents USW 900 members, voted against the bill. Rep. Adam Lee (D-Auburn) also voted against the measure. See how your legislators voted here and here.

The original version of the bill would have placed restrictions on mandatory overtime and schedule changes for employees in the pulp and paper industry. It was amended to create the commission to keep attention on the issue, develop solutions and potentially bring forward legislation in January.

During the public hearing on the previous iteration of LD 1794 last year, USW paper workers described work days with long 12 hour shifts and then sometimes being forced to work another immediate 12 hour shift for 24 hours of straight work.

“Time and time again paper mills in Maine put money before their workers,” said John J. Perry IV, former President of USW 900 at ND Paper. “Forced overtime puts an extreme burden on our members’ personal lives. Our members also operate and maintain heavy machinery, which can be very dangerous when they haven’t had enough sleep. Forced overtime also presents a threat to our communities because exhausted workers are commuting to and from work after working these grueling shifts. One mistake on the road can be catastrophic.”