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CLOQUET - More than 50 members of the Sappi Pulp and Paper Mill United Steelworkers (USW) stood in the wind and rain, voicing their displeasure over failed contract negotiations with the company.
"They're asking to take concessions away from our retirement and they want to take away some holiday pay and things like that and we just don't think it's fair that while we're doing well and the company's doing well that we need to take concessions," said Steve Bauer, a production worker at the Sappi Pulp and Paper Mill in Cloquet.
"This mill here is the most profitable mill out of the whole Sappi fleet and yet they want concessions," said Brady Nelson, President of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 11-63.
Workers contracts expired on May 14 and have been negotiating with the company ever since, ultimately rejecting Sappi's latest offer, saying it alienates many of its workers.
"They've proposed cutting some retiree benefits, but they're proposing just to cut those benefits from our junior half of our local, approximately half of the local," said Nelson.
Bauer said, "We're trying to stand as one to say that what anyone gets everyone gets."
The contract dispute comes shortly after the company announced a $170 million project that would increase its workforce and revolutionize the industry.
"The conversation would be different if the mill wasn't making money. We understand that and we can appreciate that, but we know what this mill does and we know what this mill can do," said Jay Arntson, Vice President of USW Local 11-63.
The workers are excited about what the future holds for them and the company, but in order to move forward they say a fair contract for all is needed.
"We've worked for Sappi for 10 years and every year these people have provided to the bottom line and they just don't feel like they've been recognized," said Arntson.
Sappi's mill in Cloquet could not comment on the negotiations and forwarded our call to corporate, but our call was not returned.
The two sides are expected to resume negotiations next Tuesday.