Maine lobstermen’s union votes to buy Hancock County lobster business

Maine lobstermen’s union votes to buy Hancock County lobster business Portland Press Herald

Posted February 25
Updated February 25

Maine lobstermen’s union votes to buy Hancock County lobster business

Purchase of Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound’s wholesale operation means lobstermen will have more control over the prices they get for their catch, a spokesman says.

The Maine Lobstering Union voted Saturday to buy a wholesale lobster business near Mount Desert Island to help its fishermen net a bigger share of the profit in the booming, $1.5 billion-a-year industry.

At a closed-door meeting in Rockport, members voted 63-1 to buy the wholesale side of the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, which includes a tank that can hold up to 180,000 pounds of lobster, for $4 million, said Local 207 President Rocky Alley.

“We can’t wait to start buying and selling our own lobsters,” Alley said. “Right now, fishermen sell at the dock, and we get what we get, with no control. But there is lots of money made off lobsters after they leave the dock, and some ought to stay with us fishermen.”

The vote enables the Maine union to borrow money from a Kansas City bank and to borrow $1.1 million from fellow locals in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers as far south as Maryland to purchase the Lamoine-based wholesale business.
Rocky Alley of Jonesport listens to Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher during a 2014 meeting about the state of the lobster industry. Staff photo by Gabe Souza

The Trenton Bridge manager, Warren Pettegrow, will stay on as the chief executive officer of wholesale operations, as will the employees. The operation will continue to ship live lobsters nationally and abroad, including to the European Union and Asia.
Pettegrow said he wasn’t looking to sell Trenton Bridge, a pound that’s been in his family for four generations. When he started talking to the union about two years ago, Pettegrow said it was “all about how to help better the lobstermen’s position in the industry.”

“This really is all about putting lobstermen in the best position to secure their future and their way of life for future generations,” said Pettegrow, who operates a boat that transports lobsters and has been buying MDI lobsters for years.

Eventually, the lobstering union expects to buy Pettegrow out, officials say, but he will still be owner of the family’s well-known retail operation on Route 3 in Trenton, located just over the bridge on the drive to Mount Desert Island.
When the purchase is finalized, union lobstermen from Jonesport, Mount Desert Island and Vinalhaven can sell their lobsters directly to the union cooperative, which was established in 2013, for storage at the Lamoine facility and eventual sale.
Union fishermen who sell to the co-op will get market price for their lobster, but they will also receive a share of cooperative profits, or a dividend, at the end of the year once operational costs, like trucking and employees, are covered.

In time, the union hopes to expand its buying territory to the whole Maine coast.
Reached after the vote, Alley said he wanted to thank IAM president Robert Martinez and the executive board for believing in the lobster fishermen of the state of Maine.

“This has been a dream of ours for two years, and we couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.

The Maine Lobstering Union formed in 2013 in the wake of an infamous 2012 spring glut that drove boat prices to a season average $2.69 per pound, down from about $4 per pound during recent years and the lowest yearly average in 20 years.
The union has lobbied the Maine Legislature on behalf of its members, and has raised some objections to local projects that would affect their members – such as dredging in Searsport and in Casco Bay – but it has long wanted to launch a statewide cooperative.

Lobstermen often complain about the large gap between the boat price for lobster and what a consumer pays to eat a lobster, even in a Maine restaurant. They don’t understand why rising consumer prices don’t always translate into higher boat prices.
“Now we’ll be able to track how the price system works, and we’ll be able to get a piece of the back end,” Alley said. “It will be huge. This is going to change the lobster industry in Maine. It was our goal from the first day we unionized.”

The union has about 500 members who have been active at some time since its launch, but not everyone pays the $62.70-a-month union dues on time. That is why the vote tally on Saturday was so low, union organizers said.

There had not been a fishing union in Maine in more than 75 years, when efforts to revive an earlier union ran afoul of federal price-fixing laws. But IAM lawyers found a loophole in a 1934 fishing law that allows a union to negotiate prices on behalf of fishermen.

Canadian fishermen have been organized for decades, but most don’t negotiate catch prices. Deep-sea fishermen that work on halibut, sablefish and crab boats off Washington and Alaska have union representation, too.
David Sullivan, the head of IAM’s eastern territory, applauded the results of Saturday’s vote.
“The members of the Machinists Union are proud to stand beside the lobstermen of the state of Maine as they fight to preserve their communities and their way of life,” Sullivan said.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:
Twitter: PLOvertonPPH


Car washers celebrate their car wash business in South Los Angeles After the owner closed the company from one day to another, 13 workers were organized and re-registered the service as a cooperative


After a battle to get unionized, the Vermont Gage Car Wash was one of 16 businesses that did it in 2014. But before enjoying the benefits of the union, the workers had to face a crisis.

Miguel Cruz was one of the 13 unionized workers of the car wash who already enjoyed worker protections. In 2015, the 31-year-old Mexican, who lived near work, saw one night that they were getting things out of business.

” The owner closed the business without telling us anything, ” recalls Cruz.
The next day the employees came to work and the car wash service did not open nor did the owner appear.

“We were waiting three days for answers and for our check and she told us that she had already given it to the union,” said Cruz, saying it was a lie.

They Form a Cooperative

The disappointment of losing their job, instead of cowing them, strengthened the 13 workers who decided to start the business themselves . With the help of their union United Steelworkers Local 675 and the Los Angeles Union Cooperative (LUCI) they began to raise funds.

The group registered the business again but this time as a workers’ cooperative . In this case the business is controlled by the workers who have invested some money. The profits of the business are equitable and the board of directors of the cooperative is in charge of voting in the decisions. Workers continue to benefit from their union and LUCI advises them on business development.
Union representative Manuel Ramirez said United Steelworkers Local 675 represents about 30 car wash businesses ranging from San Diego to Pasadena.

” We strive for workers to have safe drinking water, on-time breaks, overtime paid, contracts with a percentage above the minimum wage, and we also negotiate holidays and get paid for sick days that they do not use ,” Ramirez said.

Most important, in this case, is that workers now feel they have a voice and feel they are being heard, the representative added.

Happy employees

José Manuel Zúñiga, 56 and part of the group of 13 carwashers that make up the cooperative said that when he saw the strength of his colleagues to fight for the business he decided to join. Zuniga had a little fear of losing his job, but he did not lose faith.

” I am happy to be part of this group because now I know it is a very strong obligation ,” he added.

Rusty Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles County Labor Federation (AFL-CIO), who was present at the car wash celebration said that this group of employees is a role model.

” The fight for workers to have a better life began in this same place four or five years ago and now we are back where the employees have advanced and they have shown us that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself ” , Hicks said congratulating them on having the courage to continue the business under his command.

Carwasheros celebran su negocio de lavado de autos en el sur de Los Ángeles

Carwasheros celebran su negocio de lavado de autos en el sur de Los Ángeles

Después de que la dueña cerrara la empresa de un día para otro, 13 trabajadores se organizaron y volvieron a registrar el servicio como una cooperativa.
Carwasheros celebran su negocio de lavado de autos en el sur de Los ÁngelesLos propietarios del Vermont Gage Carwash celebran el aniversario de su iniciativa conjunta y emprendedora. FOTO: AURELIA VENTURA / LA OPINIÓN

¡Lee y Comparte!


Después de una batalla por conseguir la sindicalización, el lavado de autos Vermont Gage Car Wash fue uno de los 16 negocios que lo logró en el 2014. Sin embargo, antes de disfrutar los beneficios del sindicato, los trabajadores tuvieron que enfrentar una crisis.
Miguel Cruz era uno de los 13 trabajadores sindicalizados del car wash que ya gozaba de protecciones al trabajador. En el 2015, el mexicano de 31 años, quien vivía cerca del trabajo, vio una noche que estaban sacando cosas del negocio.
“La dueña cerró el negocio sin decirnos nada”, recuerda Cruz.
Al día siguiente los empleados llegaron a trabajar y el servicio de lavado de autos no abrió ni la dueña apareció.
“Estuvimos esperando tres días por respuestas y por nuestro cheque y ella nos dijo que ya se lo había dado al sindicato”, dijo Cruz, asegurando que era mentira.
02/22/17 /LOS ANGELES/Car washero Miguel Cruz joined coworkers and owners from Vermont Gage Carwash celebrate with the community their anniversary and their union contract. The celebration included music from Los Jornaleros del Norte, vendors, merchandise from other local cooperatives, to celebrate the hard working spirit of this unique group of car washeros. (Photo Aurelia Ventura/La Opinion)Miguel Cruz en la celebración del aniversario de Vermont Gage Carwash (Foto: Aurelia Ventura/La Opinión)

Forman una cooperativa

La decepción por haber perdido su empleo, en lugar de acobardarlos, fortaleció a los 13 trabajadores quienes decidieron levantar el negocio ellos mismos. Con la ayuda de su sindicato United Steelworkers Local 675 y la cooperativa Los Angeles Union (LUCI)comenzaron a recaudar fondos.
El grupo registró de nuevo el negocio pero esta vez como una cooperativa de trabajadores. En este caso el negocio es controlado por los trabajadores quienes han invertido algo de dinero. Las ganancias del negocio son equitativas y la junta directiva de la cooperativa se encarga de votar en las decisiones. Los trabajadores continúan teniendo beneficios de su sindicato y LUCI los asesora en el desarrollo del negocio.
Manuel Ramírez, representante del sindicato dijo que United Steelworkers Local 675 representa alrededor de 30 negocios de lavadores de autos que van desde San Diego hasta Pasadena.
“Nosotros luchamos para que los trabajadores tengan agua potable, descansos a tiempo, tiempo extra pagado, contratos con porcentaje arriba del salario mínimo y también negociamos los días festivos y que se les paguen los días de enfermedad que no usan”, dijo Ramírez.
Lo más importante, en este caso, es que los trabajadores ahora sienten que tienen una voz y sienten que están siendo escuchados, añadió el representante.
02/22/17 /LOS ANGELES/ Vermont Gage Carwash worker owners celebrate with the community their anniversary and their union contract. The celebration included music from Los Jornaleros del Norte, vendors, merchandise from other local cooperatives, to celebrate the hard working spirit of this unique group of car washeros. (Photo Aurelia Ventura/La Opinion)Los 13 trabajadores que decididieron unirse y formar una cooperativa celebran el aniversario de su negocio (Foto: Aurelia Ventura/La Opinión)

Empleados felices

José Manuel Zúñiga, de 56 años y parte del grupo de los 13 carwasheros que conforma la cooperativa dijo que al ver la fortaleza de sus compañeros por luchar por el negocio él decidió unirse. Zúñiga tuvo un poco de temor por haber perdido su trabajo, pero no perdió la fe.
“Me da mucho gusto ser parte de este grupo porque ahora sé que es una obligación muy fuerte”, añadió.
Rusty Hicks, director ejecutivo de la federación laboral del condado de Los Ángeles (AFL-CIO), quien estuvo presente en la celebración del car wash dijo que este grupo de empleados son un modelo a seguir.
02/22/17 /LOS ANGELES/ Vermont Gage Carwash worker owners celebrate with the community their anniversary and their union contract. The celebration included music from Los Jornaleros del Norte, vendors, merchandise from other local cooperatives, to celebrate the hard working spirit of this unique group of car washeros. (Photo Aurelia Ventura/La Opinion)La comunidad participó en la celebración, que incluyó música de Los Jornaleros del Norte entre otras atracciones (Foto: Aurelia Ventura/La Opinión)“La pelea para que los trabajadores tengan una vida mejor empezó en este mismo lugar hace cuatro o cinco años y ahora estamos de regreso donde los empleados han avanzado y nos han demostrado que si quieres que se haga algo bien lo tienes que hacer tú mismo”, dijo Hicks felicitándolos por tener el valor de continuar el negocio bajo su mando.