BUCKSPORT – Laid-off workers joined union leaders at the Verso Paper mill Wednesday to say “thank you” to the millworkers there who have helped provide support during the past several years of mill closings and layoffs.
In that time, the workers at the Bucksport mill have donated more than $60,000 to a local charity that has provided funds to the laid-off workers from other mills to buy food, medicine and heating fuel oil.
“I want to thank everyone who works here,” said Kendall Dunbar, president of Local 1821 of the machinists union at the Verso mill. “They used those funds to get them through some very tough times.”
Steve Stanley was a 30-year veteran of the mill in East Millinocket and was laid off when the mill closed. He said he was out of work for about six months, and that he was one of the lucky ones. Some workers in that area have been out of work for three years, he said.
The donations from the Bucksport mill and from other agencies and groups, he said, helped the 1,200 workers who were left jobless by mill closures in the region.
“What that meant was that people didn’t have to leave,” Stanley said. “The biggest concern at that time was heating oil and food. People had to heat their houses. They couldn’t just leave them empty. They helped out 1,200 people.”
The laid-off workers brought with them a large poster which included messages of thanks and photographs of people preparing last year’s Thanksgiving dinner baskets that were delivered to out-of-work millworkers. Funds donated by Bucksport workers helped purchase that food through Food and Medicine, a nonprofit organization that works with local unions to determine how best to use donated funds and to get them to those who need the money.
Most speakers at the rally also urged millworkers to vote against the Taxpayers Bill of Rights during the next election. They expressed concerns that the proposition will damage state programs that help support laid-off workers.
“Nonprofits can only do so much,” said Christina Giorgio of Food and Medicine. “We need well-funded programs to help people get back on their feet. TABOR puts all that at risk.”
In addition to the speeches, the group handed out information to Bucksport millworkers during shift changes at the mill, urging them to vote against Question 1.