Gilman Millworkers List Grievances
05/21/02 12:00AM By Steve Zind
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(Host) Workers at the idle American Paper Company mill in the northeast kingdom town of Gilman met today to get a progress report on a long list against the mill's owners.
VPR's Steve Zind reports.
(Worker) "What are we going to do? What happens if someone has an emergency or something? That's going to wipe somebody out. How can somebody get away with this?"
(Zind) About 80 Vermont and New Hampshire millworkers gathered at the union hall in Gilman Monday afternoon. The Connecticut River mill, which employs about 125, closed abruptly last month and workers were sent home without their final paychecks. The Vermont attorney general has gone to court to force the mill to pay the workers. A hearing is set for June 13. Union representative Ron Pickering says the mill faces some obstacles before it can reopen.
(Pickering) "We're hoping the mill starts back up, but they owe us $100,000 in wages. If wages get paid, that's not the end of our problems that's just the surface, the easy part."
(Zind) The union has filed grievances with the Labor Department over a number of issues; including unpaid medical expenses under the company's health insurance plan. Some workers at the meeting say their doctor's bills continue to mount. Arda Mooney's husband retired from the mill last fall. She says the couple continued to pay American Paper nearly $600 a month so they could keep their medical coverage. Mooney says the mill's owners took her money even thought the health insurance plan had been discontinued. She says she's been left with the medical bills from two recent eye operations:
(Mooney) "They told us they would pay for the operations. I have follow-up visits coming and I don't know what's going to go on because I'm a diabetic and my eyes are getting bad and we just don't have the money to pay."
(Zind) The workers say they're frustrated that their longstanding complaints over health coverage, their retirement plan and overdue pay haven't been addressed by the Labor Department. The Department says it is investigating the worker's grievances. The parent company of American Paper declared bankruptcy last fall.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind in Gilman.