WILTON — When Charlie Rodrigue came to Wilton in 1979 there were manufacturing plants supplying good jobs for local workers, he told selectmen Tuesday.
Rodrigue and Ron Hemingway, workers at NewPage paper mill in Rumford, sought support from the board for a resolution to stop paper subsidies in foreign countries and unfair trade in an effort to help alleviate the same pressures papers mills are now facing that brought an end to manufacturers like Forsters in Wilton and East Wilton, Bass Shoe, and Wilton Tannery, he said.
They are seeking support from towns, where employees who produce coated paper live, through a resolution that for Wilton states “reaffirming the commitment of the town of Wilton to the importance of manufacturing to the local economy and throughout the United States, expressing support for strong enforcement of our trade laws and expressing support for the domestic coated paper industry and its workers who have been injured by unfair trade practices by foreign producers.”
The workers are particularly concerned about trade practices with China, he told the board while explaining the practice of dumping or when a foreign producer sells paper here for a lower price than it charges in its homeland or when subsidies or financial assistance is given for production and exportation of the coated paper, according to the resolution.
“The workers are seeking a fair playing field by seeking stronger enforcement of trade laws and tariffs,” he said, of the message intended for the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Other towns such as Rumford, Dixfield and Mexico, have already signed the resolution, and with 30 NewPage workers living in Wilton, they bring salaries of about $1.8 million back to this area, Hemingway said.
Selectmen Tom Saviello commended the workers for taking the initiative to seek reform before it’s too late for local mills. He also inquired if congressional leaders had been involved. Hemingway passed out copies to the board of letters Maine senators and representatives have written to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Treasury.
In signing the resolution, the board agreed that a manufacturing sector is needed for economic recovery and the future health of the town, free trade requires that trade laws are enforced, that the U.S. coated paper industry can compete with any country that does not have government assistance and that Chinese and Indonesian producers should be held accountable for unfair trade practices.
The workers also invited the board to an event planned for 11 a.m. on Friday at the NewPage Administrative Building in Rumford.