BAILEYVILLE, Maine (AP) — Several dozen union members have qualified for unemployment benefits during a month-old strike against a Down East mill that produces pulp used to manufacture paper, a union official said Friday.
The workers are believed to be the first to qualify for benefits during a strike in Maine, Danny Loudermilk Jr., a Machinists Union business representative, said Friday.
All told, about 75 workers from the Machinists Union, Millwrights Union and Service Employees International Union are striking against Woodland Pulp in Baileyville. The striking machinists, millwrights, pipefitters and mechanics who comprise about a quarter of the workforce are angry over the company’s proposal to change job classifications, while the company said it’s seeking more flexibility for workers.
Brendan Wolf, the mill’s executive director for human resources and safety, said the company was notified by the Maine Department of Labor on Thursday that the strike doesn’t disqualify workers from receiving unemployment benefits. The company, which is continuing production, is deciding whether to appeal, he said.
A Department of Labor spokesperson declined comment Friday, saying unemployment benefits are confidential.
Striking FairPoint workers were granted unemployment benefits after the fact following their four-month strike that ended in 2015, but they weren’t eligible for benefits during the strike. FairPoint, the region’s telephone company, was later acquired by Consolidated Communications.