Joshua Kinney, president of Local 1490 of the International  Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Baileyville, holds up a sign outside the Woodland Pulp mill during a workers strike on October 16. Credit: Courtesy of Andy O'Brien

Union representatives are strongly criticizing management of a Baileyville pulp mill for hiring replacement workers while roughly 80 unionized mill employees are on strike.

The replacement workers at Woodland Pulp are employees of Strom Engineering Corp., which “specializes” in providing short-term, non-union workers to mills involved in labor disputes, according to union representatives.

Workers with two different unions — International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and Service Employees International Union — have been on strikes since Oct. 14, while members of the Millwrights union are expected to join the picket line on Oct. 25, union representatives said Monday.

The move is a sign of disrespect, they said.

“We expected good-faith negotiations, but instead, we’ve encountered a company that refuses to acknowledge the importance of these jobs to the community and continues to engage in bad-faith bargaining practices,” said IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President David Sullivan. “This latest stunt of bringing in scab workers is a slap in the face to our members and union allies. We will not back down to protect our members’ livelihoods.”

The strike comes as more workers nationwide are trying to organize into unions even as the number of unionized workers in the United States drops.

A spokesman for the mill did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday afternoon about the temporary non-union workers.

Last week, striking workers said two of them were hit but uninjured when a salaried employee of the mill drove into them at low speed while they were picketing in a crosswalk.

The primary sticking point in the contract negotiations in Baileyville is a proposal from the mill to create a new job classification that would have workers do a wider variety of tasks. The members of the unions believe this is an attempt to undercut the unions’ bargaining power by de-emphasizing special skills among the mill’s workforce.

A spokesman for the mill previously has said the proposal is aimed at enhancing and broadening the skill set of the mill workers, not to water it down.

The Machinists’ union has filed unfair labor practice complaints with the federal national Labor Relations Board over “the company’s continued refusal to negotiate in good faith,” union representatives said.

The mill’s management also has refused to provide satisfactory financial information to union negotiators, according to the unions.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the reason for the Machinists’ union’s complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. The union says it has filed the complaints because the company refuses to negotiate in good faith.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....