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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 16, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, March 16, 2017
Union members to benefit from after-dock sales
After wholesale lobster facility purchase, union looks to Stonington, too

Maine lobstering union board member McGuire

Stonington lobsterman and union board member Thomas McGuire, shown at a 2016 Zone C meeting in Orland, sees a benefit for fishermen from a Lamoine wholesale facility.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

After the purchase by the Maine Lobstering Union of a $4 million lobster wholesale facility, the union may soon be talking with Stonington dealers about shore margins.

The MLU voted nearly unanimously to purchase the facility, located in Lamoine, which can hold 180,000 pounds of lobsters. The idea is to help lobstermen garner a share of the profits that come after the lobsters land at docks.

“The lobstermen in the state of Maine have worked really hard to have a sustainable fishery,” Stonington lobsterman and MLU board member Thomas McGuire said. “Our lobster union has been about sustaining the fishermen and the communities that we represent. That’s really been the push behind it all, for sustainable fishermen.”

The MLU, formed in 2013 when dock prices for lobster fell dramatically, is part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Maine’s IAMAW representative, David Sullivan, is starting to speak with Stonington lobster dealers about trucking union members’ lobsters from Stonington to the Lamoine wholesale facility. The union will pay an annual dividend to union members, separate from what those lobstermen are paid for at the dock or by a dealer.

“The [current] infrastructure will stay in place,” Sullivan said. “We just don’t back our truck up and load [the lobsters] up. We have to have agreements with different docks.”

While Stonington was not originally one of the ports considered for the initial roll-out of the union wholesale facility, a March 9 meeting in Stonington generated a lot of calls, Sullivan said.

And although the union has not yet spoken to the Stonington Lobster Co-op, which pays its own dividend to co-op members, it would like to.

“What we hope it essentially means for Stonington is that a different truck, an additional truck, comes down and takes the lobster away for the [union] members,” McGuire said. “I’m hopeful that it allows us to realize some profits on the other end of the market. The fact that we’re having conversations in Stonington is great.”

“I sold every lobster I’ve ever caught to the co-op,” he added said. “We want to work with [them].”

The IAMAW has about 5,000 members in Maine, many employed at Bath Iron Works, and in towns and municipalities. The Maine Lobstering Union, with about 500 members, has its own executive board, Sullivan said. “They have a voice up and down the coast.”