Leading up to the strike, contract negotiations were not going well at the Androscoggin Paper Mill in Jay. International Paper Co. sought concessions of lower labor costs, reduction of jobs and more manager flexibility. It wanted to take the union contract’s grievance procedure clause out and wanted workers to give up their Christmas holiday, retired paperworker Cindy Bennett of Jay said. 

At the time of the strike, the mill ran seven days a week, 24 hours a day, except for Christmas and another holiday, she said.

Five paper machines were running. Each had the capability of producing 1,000 tons each a day, according to Julius Getman’s book “The Betrayal of Local 14: Paperworkers, Politics, & Permanent Replacements.”

Union grievances mounted, and environmental concerns were raised.

June 3: Union officials urge nearly 900 workers at International Paper Co.’s Androscoggin Mill to go on strike and join paperworkers at mills in five other states to place pressure on IP to give up demands for concessions.


June 4: Union paperworkers in Local 14, United Papermakers International Union, and Local 246, International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers, vote overwhelmingly to strike.

June 5: Union negotiators for 1,200 paperworkers notify the management of IP they intend to terminate their involvement with a contract that expired on May 31.

June 6: During the week prior to the actual strike, town managers in Jay and Livermore Falls try to prepare for a labor dispute while at the same time maintain the towns’ neutrality. Police departments swear in officers from neighboring towns to give them the authority to act if called on to provide assistance.

June 7: Nearly 100,000 gallons of fuel oil and slurry clay leak from 11 railroad cars in a remote holding area at Androscoggin Mill. An IP spokesman terms it a “suspicious” incident. 

June 8: IP places advertisements in several Maine newspapers over the weekend seeking workers for “potential full-time, permanent and temporary employment” at its Androscoggin Mill in anticipation of a work stoppage by union employees.

June 13: Contract talks end abruptly between IP and two papermakers unions at the mill as they leveled angry charges at one another. IP officials accuse workers of damaging equipment and causing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in lost production over the past 48 hours. In response, union leadership accuse IP of bargaining in bad faith and “resorting to blatant lies and misleading information in order to intimidate and coerce” workers to accept its final offer.


June 15: Officials for IP and two unions representing 1,250 workers set final plans as an early strike loomed with no extension in sight. During the late evening hours security guards at the gate check workers in and out as shifts changed. Departing workers bring tools and boxes of personal effects out as they leave. 

Strike begins after the last shift.

June 16: Picket lines form; salaried workers begin the task of trying to get the mill back online during what both sides predict is along walkout.

“It’s now a waiting game,” Felix Jacques, executive vice president of Local 14, United Paperworkers International Union, said as he crosses through IP’s gate to join those on the picket lines.

Groups of angry workers surround cars and trucks trying to pass through the gate. As vehicles travel through, picketers walk in front, forcing drivers to slow down to a crawl.

Police and sheriff’s deputies were much in evidence, but no serious incidents were reported.


June 20: IP management follows through with threats to withdraw ratification bonuses and to resubmit a contract proposal allowing the mill to hire subcontractors without seeking union approval after paperworkers rejected IP’s “best” contract offer.

June 22: Androscoggin Mill Manager Newland A. Lesko sends out a reprint of a letter to employees that reads in part: “As we stated in our discussion with the union committee, we don’t want to hire a permanent replacement for you. As you know, we are running the Androscoggin Mill with salaried employees and contract maintenance in order to protect our business relationships. We want to make certain the plant still has customers when the strike is over. But, this is not the efficient way to run our facility. We intend to resume normal operations and we would much prefer to do this by having Androscoggin employees back on the job.” 

It continues: “We’d like to have you back through a ratification of the company’s offer for a new labor agreement. If that is not possible, and the strike continues, we must be prepared to hire replacements. It’s important that you understand your legal rights — and the company’s legal rights — concerning the hiring of permanent replacements for striking employees.”

It continues, outlining employees’ rights, including that they have the right to strike.

June 25: Violence at the strikebound IP worsens and company and union officials agreed that the trouble will only increase labor tensions. As the strike enters day 10, Jay police investigate two reported fire bombings  and other vandalism that occurred early in the day. William Meserve, spokesman for Local 14, wonders if IP was trying to intimidate strikers. IP spokesman Ben Pike said the acts are making it difficult for negotiators to meet. 

June 29:  Around this date IP hires 100 replacement workers. Hundreds of angry picketers greet them when they cross into the mill.  


Then-Jay Police Chief Erland Farrington estimates that between 500 and 800 angry picketers line the access road to the IP mill during morning hours. About 500 picketers show up 12 hours later.

October 1988: After 16 months of daily picketing, the strike ends.

July 1992: Vote decertifies union at mill; 660-380. It made Jay the only nonunion paper mill in Maine. Subsequent votes to reinstate the union in later years all fail.

Source: Sun Journal archives, International Paper Co. letter 

From IP to Verso

International Paper Co. owned two paper mills in Jay at one time: Otis Falls Mill, which straddled the Livermore Falls line, and the Androscoggin Mill on Riley Road.


Otis Falls Mill was sold in the late 1970s and is now a scrap-metal facility.

IP began operations at the Androscoggin Mill in 1965, and sold the mill and associated properties to Verso Androscoggin LLC, a subsidiary of Verso Corp., in 2006. 

In its heyday, the mill employed over 1,200 people. There are less than 400 employees working there today.

In late 2015, Verso shut down one paper machine and indefinitely idled a pulp dryer. Some 300 jobs were permanently eliminated.

Verso and 26 subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2016. The companies emerged six months later, after wiping out $2.4 billion in debt.

In April of that year, Jay selectpersons and Verso Corp. reached a $4 million settlement to resolve valuation and tax disputes for tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015. The town also agreed to other concessions as the value of the paper mill decreases.

Two paper machines were operating at the start of 2017; in the first quarter, the company laid off about 190 people.

Verso cited foreign competition, high operating costs in Maine — especially high energy costs — and high local property taxes as contributing factors to the downsizing.

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