Lobstermen at Winpisinger Center Plan Organizing Effort

Lobstermen from Vinalhaven, ME, met at the IAM’s Winpisinger Center to plan an organizing effort to preserve their way of life.

A unique group of workers, Lobstermen from Maine, met at the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education & Technology Center to plan organizing not only themselves, but potentially thousands of Lobstermen up and down the Maine coastline.

The initial group of Lobstermen is from Vinalhaven, ME, but they plan to expand their efforts to other parts of the state.

The Lobstermen all come from Vinalhaven, ME, a small town in the Fox Islands and home to multi-generational lobstering families. Among their many concerns is how to preserve their way of life. Other concerns include dealing with the costs of fuel, boat maintenance and other costs associated with lobster fishing, all of which are borne by the boat captains whom are paid as the buyers determine, and the lobsters are then sold for many times more than what the buyers paid.

District Lodge 4 Directing Business Representative Joe Flanders and his staff, BR’s Jim Alexander and Joel Pitcher, coordinated with Winpisinger Center instructors to design a program to give the Lobstermen an overview of unions, collective bargaining and the IAM. With the help of the IAM Strategic Resources Department, they also learned about researching their industry. During the week-long session the participants developed strategy, messaging and a course of action for their fellow Lobstermen back in Vinalhaven.

“I didn’t know anything about a union,” said James Knowlton. “This was very informative for me, the training and planning of the past days have shown me what’s possible, and now I can see hope for the future.”

“When they return home they’ll be armed with information and prepared to move forward with a plan,” said Flanders. “Many of them felt they needed help in their struggle for fairness, and more importantly to them, preserving their way of life. This week they learned something about standing together as a group – a union, to make change.”

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