When Paper Workers Fought Wall Street Greed


  • Labor Reading Group to Feature Author Bill Fletcher, Jr. — Jan. 28th
  • Union Members Deliver Nearly 10 Tons of Food to Mainers in Need
  • New Book Chronicles Worker Militancy in Maine’s Paper Industry
  • Kittery Water District Workers Ratify First Contract
  • Join Virtual Events Celebrating the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • MSEA-SEIU 1989 Hiring for a Union Organizer Position

Labor Reading Group to Feature Activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. — Jan. 28th

Writer & activist Bill Fletcher Jr. & his booklet "Race to Labor"

The Maine AFL-CIO Labor Reading Group will hold a discussion of activist and writer Bill Fletcher Jr.’s booklet “Race to Labor,” featuring special guest Bill Fletcher Jr. himself on Thursday, January 28, from 5 - 7pm. You can download the booklet here and register for the event here.

Bill Fletcher, Jr is longtime labor activist who has worked for the National AFL-CIO and a number of unions and is a very captivating speaker on both race and labor issues. He has co-authored and authored a number of books including “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”“Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and "'They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.”

The Labor Reading Group is currently taking suggestions for books to read and discuss after January. If there is a book you’d like to read and discuss with us, please email [email protected].

Union Members Deliver Nearly 10 Tons to Mainers in Need

Union members loading food boxes for Mainers in need.

For the 13th year in a row, local unions at the Sappi Somerset Mill in Skowhegan teamed up to raise money to purchase food for Christmas meals and area food banks. This year union members, the company and local businesses helped raise $33,000 in donations.

“I think folks need to recognize that while Mainers have always suffered food insecurity, a lot more families are struggling this year due to the pandemic,” said USW Local 9 President Pat Carleton. “We hope other Mainers will also consider donating what they can to support their struggling neighbors in their communities this year. Now more than ever, we need to support each other in the spirit of solidarity."

On December 18, union members delivered nearly 10 tons of food to area food banks and local residents as well as complete Christmas dinners to feed 150 families over the holidays. The group also delivered several comfort items to patients at the Veterans Affairs Center at Togus in Augusta. Participating unions included USW Local 4-9, IBEW 1768, IAM 2740 and SPFPA 550.

New Book Chronicles Worker Militancy in Maine’s Paper Industry

Professor Mike Hillard and his new book "Shredding Paper."

A new book is shedding light on the history of worker militancy in the Maine paper industry, from the 19th century to the decline of paper making in Maine in the 21st century. In his book “Shredding Paper,” labor historian Michael Hillard, an economics professor at the University of Southern Maine, chronicles the history of paper making, the rise of organized labor in the industry and the militancy of workers during the Wall Street takeover of manufacturing in the 1970s and 80s.

Hillard convincingly argues that it wasn't as much globalism that caused the rapid decline of the paper industry, but our lack of government industrial policy along with Wall Street greed that put short term profits above their workers, research and development and investments in the mills. Far from a dry study of the industry, Hillard’s highly readable and engaging book features 150 interviews with the workers and mill managers themselves about what happened. “Shredding Paper” is highly recommended for anyone seeking an understanding of how Wall Street greed ravaged an industry that once made Maine the “Detroit of paper” and how workers organized and fought back. Order your copy here!

Kittery Water District Workers (IBEW 1837) Ratify First Contract

Kittery Water District Office Manager Linda Johnson voting to ratify a contract.

Workers at the Kittery Water District have overwhelmingly ratified their first contract with IBEW Local 1837. The 15 workers at the water utility include office staff, filtration plant workers, laborers, meter readers, service technicians and others.

The 2-year contract agreement includes 2.5% wage increases in each year and maintains 100% health insurance coverage paid for by the Kittery Water District. Other improvements include requiring management to give employees advance notice for schedule changes and improving opportunities to earn overtime pay. It also instituted a grievance and arbitration process for any violations of the agreement.

The employees were able to utilize a new state law that recognizes unions if a majority of municipal workers in a bargaining unit sign union authorization cards stating that they would like to be represented by the union. This allows workers to avoid a drawn out election processes after they’ve already decided to organize a union. The Kittery Water District serves Kittery, Eliot and a portion of York. They provide drinking water to 12,000 people in addition to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, their largest governmental customer.

Join Virtual Events Celebrating the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Nearly 52 years ago, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee while in the city to support striking AFSCME sanitation workers. As we reflect on King’s legacy, the AFL-CIO will be hosting an online Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference on Friday, January 15 and Saturday, January 16. The theme will be “From Protest to Power: When We Fight, We Win.” Union members will gather virtually to build on our victories and strategize about the continued fight for economic and racial justice with — and also within — the labor movement. Admission is free. Click here to register.

Other MLK Day events in Maine include:

  • University of New England’s Online Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration with keynote speaker David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D — Jan. 20 at 6pm, on Zoom & Facebook Live. Click here to register.

Maine Service Employees Association is Hiring for a Union Organizer

The Maine Service Employees Association (SEIU 1989) is hiring for a new union organizer position. The job includes recruiting new members, organizing members around workplace issues, identifying and training new member leaders, organizing new unions and more. Click here for more information!