New England Loggers Cooperative (IAM) Secures Deal with Major Mill

The New England Loggers Cooperative, which was formed earlier this year with the Machinists Union, has entered into an agreement with Matériaux Blanchet Inc. (MBI), a major lumber mill in Quebec, according to a press release from Senate President Troy Jackson. Under the agreement, any lumber harvested from Maine forests will be cut and shipped by Maine loggers and haulers.

Last month a new state law took effect that allows loggers and haulers to form cooperatives and collectively bargain for a fair share of the profits, similar to the way lobstermen and potato farmers do. 

“A large majority of softwood harvested in northern Maine already goes to MBI,” said President Jackson in a statement. “If the timber is coming from here, it should be harvested by workers from here. This is an agreement that just makes sense, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperative.”

Additionally, the New England Loggers Cooperative is partnering with MBI to pursue an internationally recognized certification that would let consumers know the company is dedicated to paying and treating workers fairly, and adheres to environmentally sustainable business practices.

“Pursuing such a certification would be good business on top of being socially conscientious,” said Tim Varney, a partner at MBI. “It would benefit landowners and consumers alike, and let buyers know our practices are responsible and our products are high-quality.”

For over a hundred years, wealthy timber corporations have exploited Northern Maine loggers and haulers, forcing them to work incredibly long hours doing difficult and dangerous work. By banding together in their new cooperative, they have some leverage to demand better treatment. 

Recently, log hauler Dana Gardiner of St. Francis and logger Mark Hardison of Dedham were interviewed by the podcast Working People about their own efforts organizing woods workers, which can be heard here and here