Union Workers Picket At Sappi Paper Mill

By KBJR News 1

October 23, 2012 Updated Oct 23, 2012 at 10:20 PM CDT

Cloquet, MN (Northland's Newscenter) - Union workers at the Sappi Paper Mill in Cloquet are making their voices heard.

They picketed outside the plant's gates Tuesday to protest the mill's proposal to take away retiree benefits.

Sappi management has offered a contract that would eliminate various retiree benefits for employees with less than 15 years of service.

Contract holders say they want the concessions off the table.

Employees started bargaining in May and the final offer came in late September.

Those picketing this afternoon were Representing nearly 400 Sappi Pulp and Paper mill members in Cloquet.

"If we let them take the benefits way from the junior half, there will be a growing number that won't have those benefits in years to come. So the older ones will be retiring and the voting block will be fewer and fewer of our members will have those benefits," Brady Nelson, President of United Steel Workers Local 11-63, said.

Nelson says out of the Sappi fleet, this location is the most profitable and mill officials plan to invest roughly $170M in to the current facility.

Some members are concerned that less money will be going into the community with the cut in retiree benefits.

Employees and management are going back to the table to bargain with Sappi officials on October 30th.