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.

TED Talk on Los Angeles Union Cooperative Initiative


LUCI Member , Niki Okuk, gives a TED talk at TEDx Crenshaw October 2016.  Today it was released to the public.

Niki Okuk

Title/Occupation: Worker – Owner, LA Union Cooperative Initiative

Bio: Niki grew up in Los Angeles attending Audobon Middle School, High School in Oakland, CA, community college in San Francisco, later majoring in Economics at Columbia University in New York. After working in development with the office of Joseph Stiglitz, and working in finance in Korea and Singapore. Niki completed her MBA with Nanyang University in Singapore, including a sustainability certificate at Sloan School of Business at MIT. She has has since returned to Los Angeles to build democratic and sustainable businesses, co-founding Rco Tires, a tire recycling and manufacturing company in Compton.

Title of Talk: Business/Entrepreneurship

How does this fit in with our theme: This years TedxCrenshaw is about taking stock and getting a clear view of our community’s strengths and weaknesses. Our economy is owned by people that do not live in our communities, such as stock market investors and CEO’s of major corporations. Corporate employment pushes down wages and externalizes cost to achieve ever increasing profits.  Those profits go out of our community to share holders and CEO’s that live all around the world, robbing our local tax pool as well as impoverishing our workers.  Corporate employment is pumping wealth out of our communities.   To affect real change to the social problems in our communities, we need a fundamental shift in the business paradigm.

Quoted from TEDxCrenshaw:

Unionized Cab Drivers in Denver!

What If Uber Were a Unionized, Worker-Owned Co-Op? These Denver Cabbies Are Making It Happen

Workers at app-driven companies like Uber don’t have the rights of full employees. But with the help of traditional unions, some are banding together into worker-owned cooperatives.


Drivers gather to sign up as affiliate members of the CWA on March 14. Photo by Erin McCarley.

Mary Hansen posted Apr 10, 2015

Wolde Gebremariam is one of more than 160,000 people nationwide who drive their own cars for Uber. Based in Denver, Gebremariam, age 28, drives his Chevy SUV for the company and occasionally works as a private limo driver.

“The labor movement has to bring ownership and equity into the picture.”

Uber built its $40 billion business around a mobile-based application that connects drivers with riders. Hailed by some for shaking up a stagnant taxi industry, others criticize the company for how it treats drivers, who pay for their own cars, gas, and maintenance. It’s also been criticized for dictating rates and for deactivating drivers’ accounts, essentially firing them, without warning.

The ride-hailing app company may be innovative from the perspective of its customers—and its owners—but for the driver the experience is very similar to that of a traditional taxi driver, as Gebremariam can attest.

After he moved to Denver from Ethiopia in 2006, he worked minimum-wage jobs at the baggage claim in the Denver International Airport, and then at a nursing home. Though he enjoyed working with seniors, he wanted to go back to school and study pharmacy. The flexibility of driving a cab seemed like the right way to go. “I could work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday driving,” he says. “Then, I [could] go to school full time.”

That’s how he thought it would work, anyway. But the reality turned out to be more difficult. In 2012, he spent six months driving for a company called Metro Taxi, with a lease that required him to pay $800 per week for the use of the vehicle, dispatch, and other services. The need to earn that much every week, in addition to what he needed to live, pushed him to drive 10- or 12-hour days, seven days a week.

Gebremariam wasn’t finding the flexibility he was looking for, and turned to Uber instead. But, after driving for the company for a few months, Gebremariam says it was more of the same. “They are taking like 20 percent of our income,” he says. “We have to be on the road all the time.”

Gebremariam isn’t just complaining about it. Instead, he and 644 other drivers are on a mission to form a new taxi company that will be both worker-owned and unionized. The new co-op, Green Taxi, will have a fleet of hybrid or high-efficiency vehicles, and will offer a ride-hailing app.

The drivers aren’t going it alone. The Communications Workers of America Local 7777 union is playing a key role in helping them break into Denver’s heavily regulated taxi industry.

The new cooperative faces many legal barriers before they can get taxis on the road. For example, the Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the industry, requires potential new companies to prove that they have a viable business plan, that more drivers are needed, and that the new company won’t put existing ones out of businesses. This is just one hoop a new transportation company must jump through, and one that, Gebremariam points out, Uber never had to attempt. But the CWA, with its lobbying experience, will be there to help Green Taxi.

The partnership between the co-op and the union could show one potential way forward for workers in the app-driven economy.

Nuru Shafi, who has been a worker-owner with Union Taxi since 2009, stands with his cab. Photo by Erin McCarley.

Nuru Shafi, a worker-owner at Union Taxi since 2009, stands with his hybrid cab. Photo by Erin McCarley.

The (unionized) future of sharing

Taxi and Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees. As such, they are not guaranteed a minimum wage or other labor protections, nor can they unionize.

Uber drivers provide most of the capital needed for the business and all of the labor.

In California, two groups of drivers for Uber and Lyft (a competing ride-hailing company) are taking steps to change that. In separate court cases, they are seeking to be recognized as employees. The companies would then be required to pay drivers minimum wage, and reimburse expenses that drivers are covering now, like gas and car maintenance. It would also allow the drivers to unionize.

Gebremariam and 1,000 more drivers took a different approach in Denver toward improving their working conditions. They joined the CWA as affiliate members in October of last year. Because they weren’t employees, these new members couldn’t sign collective bargaining agreements—documents that authorize the union to negotiate with the cab companies to improve working conditions on the drivers’ behalf. But the union can still lobby for driver-friendly regulation or fight for recourse with the local government if companies treat their drivers poorly.

And, with the support of the CWA, Gebremariam and 644 other drivers made a $500 commitment each to bond and insure their new cooperative. Instead of fighting for recognition as employees of a company owned by faraway shareholders, they are attempting to build and own their own company.

Companies like Uber represent unique potential for this kind of thinking. Mike Konzcal and Byrce Covert at The Nation made the argument back in December that the company is in a perfect position to transition to a worker-owned cooperative. Uber has contributed the innovation of its mobile app, but drivers now provide most of the capital needed for the business (the car, gas, maintenance, etc.) and all of the labor.

Big upfront capital costs are usually a challenge for startup cooperatives, but as the drivers already provide most of the equipment, worker-ownership could be a logical next step. Jeff Spross at The Week echoed this idea when covering another new taxi cooperative, Transunion Car Service, based in Newark, New Jersey.

What makes Transunion Car Service and Green Taxi unique is that they are both union-backed cooperatives. The union-backed cooperatives combine the solutions of classifying Uber drivers as employees and of socializing the company’s ownership.

It’s not the first time a labor union has helped a worker-owned co-op get on its feet, and some observers see major potential in this type of partnership for the labor movement. Michael Peck is the U.S. representative for the Spanish cooperative Mondragon and co-founder of, a nonprofit organization that promotes and supports unionized cooperatives. He believes that the Green Taxi drivers’ strategy has a value that goes far beyond Denver city limits.

“The labor movement has to bring ownership and equity into the picture,” Peck says, “because otherwise we’re going to be reduced to fighting for less and less.”

Partnerships like the one around Green Taxi could help it do that. If unions create worker-owned, union-backed cooperatives like Green Taxi, Peck argues that this would strengthen the co-op model and breathe new life into a labor movement that has seen a steady decline in membership. The resulting co-ops would provide alternatives to the Uber-like companies proliferating into other services, like Urban Sitter for child care or Washio for laundry service.

Further, the partnerships give unions more choices. They offer an alternative to the uphill battle for important yet limited issues like living wages, job security, and safe working conditions. Supporting worker-ownership presents an opportunity for unions to help create situations where workers define their own labor conditions.

But what is so powerful about being a unionized worker-owner?

A driver signs a membership form. Photo by Erin McCarley.

A taxi driver signs paperwork making him an affiliate member of the CWA. Photo by Erin McCarley.

Why co-ops go union

Traditionally, unions fight for fair treatment of workers and better wages by negotiating collective bargaining agreements with a company’s management and owners. But in a worker-owned cooperative, the workers are the owners. They set their own wages and working conditions, but also make business decisions like whether to invest in a new building or offer a new product.

Those two types of decisions are often in conflict.

New cooperative owners might not have experience in negotiating wages or benefit plans.

“A lot of times, people form a cooperative,” Peck says, “and think, ‘We’ve got this really great democratic structure—it’s going to be perfect.’ And they end up spending the first few years figuring out where all the stop signs are, when what they really should be doing is focusing on the business.” In other words, new cooperative owners might not have experience in negotiating wages or benefit plans.

One way to manage this tension is for worker-owners to also be union members, he argues. That way, the union negotiates with the cooperative’s management or board of directors when it comes to concerns like pension plans or safety and training programs—areas in which unions traditionally have a lot of experience.

What it boils down to is ensuring an equal emphasis on the “worker” and “owner” of being a worker-owner.

“When people talk about disruptive innovation, it’s always on behalf of the consumer,” Peck says. “But who’s thinking about the worker? When you have a model that can do both, that’s a much better way to go.”

Being able to hail a taxi, or find a baby sitter or order groceries, from your phone is innovative and exciting. Green Taxi could show that we can have this convenience while supporting secure, worker-owned jobs.

Erin McCarley contributed reporting for this story.

Pacific Co-op Electric in Los Angeles

Here’s the video about progressive economics and labor, that the times
prospective article was formed from.

Our Story

An Electricians Coop was always a goal for Raph Christian.
Having a business that supported his community was always a goal for Somerset Waters.

While both were at a crossroads in their careers in early 2013, The LA WORCS business incubator had started doing their entrepreneurial meetings at the LA Eco-Village. Both Raph and Somerset hit these meetings with strong plans already in gear and forged a partnership that got them incorporating their business by the end of 2013.

Both Raph and Somerset have years of being engaged with the IBEW Electrical Union through their careers. They both have seen where the Union can have their back, but also see the 1000+ laid-off electricians that hit the union books on a regular basis.

They both have also seen what a well oiled machine a company could be from their common history at SolarCity. What they both saw possible was a well oiled shop that didn’t exploit their workers and supported their community through creating jobs, keeping their jobs in their community “consistuency,” and creating more energy independance through their solar program that doesn’t rob their clients.

Pacific Electric Worker-Owned LLC is the first modern Worker-Owned Coop in the Los Angeles Area. Inspired by the extensive history of Cooperatives, and a recession that brought many to their knees and others to a lavish perch, the goal of both is to create some democracy where they can, and spread it around.

Our first prospective owner is Kat Rae Johnston. An electrical apprentice and community member of the Church of Fun.
Our first prospective salesman is Jason Morris. So far our reception has been rich.

 Contact Us
Feel free to contact us for any of your electrical needs for your home or business, including:

  • 24-hour emergency service
  • Free consultations for solar, energy efficiency, off-grid or new construction
  • Quote-by-phone for service-repair*

You can reach us by phone or email at:

  • (213) 400-0614 (please no non-emergency calls after 4pm)

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!

The PEWOC Team

* quotes for convenience only – estimates subject to actual service/repair conditions, but our members want your referrals and continued business, and do our best to accurately set our customers’ expectations.