Maine: Irving Woodlands shuts down logging to avoid paying loggers a living wage

Irving Woodlands LLC is seeking to “blackmail” the Maine Legislature and avoid collective bargaining with independent logging contractors by halting work Monday on the more than 1 million acres it owns in northern Maine, two state lawmakers charge. The J.D. Irving Ltd. subsidiary argued Friday that it is the only landowner affected by a 2004 state law allowing forest workers to bargain.

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“We are hoping for a resolution to this,” Mary Keith, vice president of communications for the New Brunswick-based corporation, said Monday. “The global market is fiercely competitive and we must do everything we can to ensure a cost-effective wood supply — not only for our own operations in the state but also to the 20-plus Maine mills that depend on our wood supply. “In the last year alone, wood prices paid to us by our customers in the state have fallen by up to 25 percent,” Keith added. Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, a logger who co-sponsored the law with state Rep. John L. Martin, D-Eagle Lake, doubted legislators would back down.

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The law has never been enforced, as lawmakers have repeatedly suspended enforcement in response to Irving threats, they said. “I do think that the Irving employees should go file for unemployment this week because nothing is going to happen in the immediate future,” Martin said Monday.

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“I am not going to operate from threats and from blackmail,” he added. “I am not willing to sit down and talk to them unless they are willing to put their employees back to work. They were never part of this, and now they are being used.”

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