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Union Leaders Attend USW Maine Labor Council Meeting

Andy O’Brien
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The United Steelworkers Maine Labor Council, the council of all the USW locals in Maine, held its first meeting since 2020 with over 55 members in attendance in Bangor last week. The council had not met since the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic. Attendees elected new officers, including its new President Dave Hebert, a USW 291 member who works at the Twin Rivers paper mill in Madawaska.

“This is the most members we've seen attend in years, including pre-covid,” said Hebert. “We wanted to wake this thing back up, get it back on track and have it alive and kicking like it used to be. We understand the value of this council and we want to keep it healthy as a resource for our folks here in Maine.”

At the meeting, USW leaders from different locals delivered reports about what’s happening at their workplaces and shared issues they were having. Hebert said that while forced overtime continues to be an problem at some mills, it has improved at the Twin Rivers mill thanks to the work of USW members and the Maine AFL-CIO in pushing for limits on the practice at the state legislature. Hebert said the company has since increased staffing and relations between the union and corporate have markedly improved.

The Maine AFL-CIO also did a presentation at the meeting on our labor priorities in Augusta, including our push to urge Governor Mills and lawmakers to support a measure that would create a special committee to examine the damaging practice of mandatory overtime in paper mills and recommend solutions to limit forced overtime. The issue of requiring workers to work forced overtime continues to be a major issue at some mills in Maine. USW members also signed postcards in support of keeping the postal distribution facility in Hampden.  

We gave members a preview of our annual scorecard and played “Scorecard Jeopardy.” Several leaders pledged to present the upcoming 2024 Working Families Legislative Scorecard to their members. The University of Maine’s Scontras Center for Labor and Community Education also did a presentation on the resources it can provide to workers and unions.

“It’s important to keep these councils intact to share information across shops and can build power together,” said Hebert. “Building that power together gives us the tools to do that work.”