Grand Rapids paper mill workers to strike

15 July 2023

GRAND RAPIDS Paper mill workers will go on strike Saturday after union members voted to authorize a work stoppage.

Jeff Oveson, president of Teamsters Local 346, which represents workers at the UPM Blandin paper mill, said all 166 union members are set to strike.

In an email, Oveson said wages, a two-tier wage and benefit system for newer employees, and supervisors performing their work are among the sticking points in contract negotiations.

The mill employs approximately 230 people and can produce up to 230,000 metric tons of coated magazine papers per year, according to the mill’s website.

An email to UPM seeking comment Friday night was not immediately returned.

In a statement to Northern News Now, UPM Blandin officials said production at the mill “will cease for the time being.”

“The Company is committed to engaging in the negotiation process with the Teamsters Local 346 membership,” the company told the TV station. “We remain hopeful that we can move forward and reach an agreement.”

Two decades ago, the Blandin mill employed 800 workers on four machines that manufactured paper.

But as demand waned, the company closed two machines in 2003, laying off 300 people. Another 150 people were laid off in 2017 when another machine closed.

Today, just one machine at the mill remains.

The mill is a major employer in the area and is a significant part of the local tax base.

The Blandin mill was built in 1901, and in 1977 it was sold to Fletcher Challenge Canada. Helsinki, Finland-based UPM bought Blandin Paper Co. in 1997.


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