Current Jay mill employees hopeful for future despite layoffs

Mill Shutdown

JAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Not enough demand has left 120 paper mill workers jobless. They had been working on machine No. 3 at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, which had closed temporarily in January.

Verso announced Wednesday it didn't have enough demand to keep that machine open.

Mill representatives say those 120 people will get severance packages. Current mill employees and the Department of Labor say many of those 120 have already started finding other jobs.

120 people left jobless after Verso announces machine shutdown at Jay mill

There are 400 people still actively work at the mill in Jay. They said the trend of layoffs makes them nervous, but they are hopeful the mill can thrive in the future.

Mike Austin is well aware that the paper industry is in serious decline. “I am my own worst enemy as well,” he said. “I go to the shopping centers and I come home with plastic, no paper.”

He's been an equipment operator at the Androscoggin mill for 30 years.

“I thought about taking the severance and going, but I am going to stick it out for the long-haul,” he said. “I've been there 30 years. I'm going to stick it out.”

Seeing 120 of his coworkers get laid off has him a bit nervous.

“It was sad. All the coworkers I worked with … it's sad to see them, and some of the younger fellows that have only been there for five years, 10 years, sad to see them leave,” he said.

He's hopeful that these layoffs will be the last at the mill in Jay. “I'm hoping. I'm hearing a lot from the managers and staff. We are going to do all right. We are going to make it,” he said.

Maine's troubled paper industry has seen five mills close since 2015. More than 2,300 workers have lost their jobs since 2011.

Austin said that has some employees in Jay nervous but working harder than ever. “In my area [of the mill] probably more than ¾ of us have got at least 30 years in or more,” he explained. “Nobody wants to lose their job so they're going to work hard to keep it.”

Austin was sad that it had come to this point but had advice for anyone still trying to survive in Maine's paper industry. “You can't be into one thing,” he said. “The mill is there but it could close tomorrow.”

The closing of machine No. 3 is effective on Aug. 1.

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