Sunday, January 4, 2015

SMI Workers on Strike at Sappi Paper Mill

At midnight of New Year's Day, the 5 workers of Speciality Minerals Inc. at the Sappi paper mill went out on strike.  The root cause of the strike is SMI's attempt to cut the workers' health benefits, freeze their pensions, not guarantee them full time hours, and offering an inadequate pay package. 

The workers are represented by United Steelworkers Local 11-63, the same local that represents the other workers at the Sappi plant in Cloquet.

The SMI workers run a small chemical plant within the Sappi mill that makes filler and coating for high end, glossy paper products.

Initially SMI kept the plant with management, but they have since brought in out of state scabs from other SMI plants to run the plant.  SMI is paying the scabs their regular wages, plus overtime, plus $20 an hour on top of that.

SMI has a number of plants around the country, but the one at the Sappi plant in Cloquet is the only one that is unionized.  It's suspected that is part of the reason the company is taking such a hard line - they want to crush the Cloquet strikers to dissaude workers at other SMI plants from unionizing.

This is shaping up to be a tough fight.  The company is refusing to even meet with the union.  But the striking workers are determined to fight back.  

Despite bitter cold, the workers and their allies have been holding daily picket starting at 5am and running until 6pm.  One of the five workers is in the hospital battling terminal cancer.  The other four have been out there picketing every day, even when wind temperatures dropped to -36 degress.  This brave bunch of workers could use all the solidarity they can get.  A number of local Cloquet businesses have already offered the striking workers free coffee and meals, and a lot of folks honk and offer other sings of support when they drive by, but there is always a need for bodies on the picket line.  So stop by whenever you can and grab a sign.  Lets show these courageous workers that the motto "an injury to one is an injury to all!" is alive and well in the Northland!

> The article above was written by Adam Ritscher of the United Steelworkers Local 9460.

1 comment:

Mike Kuitu said...

Great article, Adam. I would add that there are about 400 production workers at the Sappi plant represented by the Steelworkers. Also another 100 or so plant millwrights covered by the SEIU.