Employee who lost 2 jobs at paper mill, Jay encourages

Employee who lost 2 jobs at paper mill, Jay encourages

Sept. 22—JAY—Curtis Brooks, who has twice lost his job at the Maine paper mills that have closed or downsized, has some advice for those fired if the Androscoggin Mill closes next year.

The 41-year-old from Jay lost his job when the Wausau Paper Otis Mill on the Jay/Livermore Falls line downsized in December 2008 and closed in 2009. He joined Verso Corp., the former owner of the Androscoggin Mill, and when it declined in 2016, he was unemployed again.

He did a stint as a corrections officer in a prison before being hired by the Nine Dragons Paper Holdings factory in Rumford in 2017.

“At the Otis Mill, I cut through a bit with pulp and paper,” Brooks said. “If you’re from the city of Jay, you’re kind of born in it.”

He said he thinks anyone who saw the other factories in Lincoln, Bucksport, and Millinockett close, thought they might have a better chance of survival with fewer factories.

“If it happens to you, you’re almost in shock,” he said. “It baffles everyone in a way. They make these announcements, and you still have to work. It hurts. You almost feel helpless.”

After the shock, workers attend meetings, where they are told about severance pay and the order in which machines will shut down and departments will go out.

“You hope your department will be the last to leave because you would still be drawing a paycheck before having to start your life over,” he said. “Once the shock wears off, you kind of look at the options available.”

This is the situation that some 230 employees face as Pixelle Specialty Solutions of Pennsylvania prepares to close the Androscoggin plant in the first quarter of 2023. The displaced workers will receive severance pay, factory spokesman Alan Ulman wrote in an email on Wednesday.

It’s the first mill Pixelle has closed, he said.

Brooks said he believes that as the Jay factory downsized in recent years, some workers thought, “Is this the beginning of the end?” and “It was almost inevitable that this mill would close.”

In the coming months, the Maine Department of Labor will work closely with the factory’s leadership to ensure that every employee has access to unemployment and health insurance, job training and job search assistance through Maine’s CareerCenter and JobLink, and has access to other critical services, spokesman Dillon Murray wrote in an email on Wednesday.

When Brooks was fired from Verso, the Sappi Mill in Skowhegan and the Rumford Mill opened their doors to try and help Verso’s, he said.

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