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Sappi Fine Paper union workers to vote on proposed contract

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Unionized workers at the Sappi Fine Paper mill in Cloquet, Minn., will vote Friday on a "revised tentative agreement," the Duluth News Tribune reports. About 400 of the 715 workers at the northeast Minnesota mill are represented by the United Steelworkers Local 11-63. The union employees have been working without a new contract since May.

Members authorized a strike last week if a labor deal could not be reached. In October, workers also picketed the Cloquet facility after managers offered a contract that would cut retiree benefits, the Star Tribune reports.

Less demand for paper and wood has chopped away at Minnesota's logging industry. As of July, the tree harvest in Minnesota had dropped 40 percent in six years.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific closed its hardboard manufacturing plant in Duluth in October. The owners of the Verso Paper mill in Sartell also decided not to reopen the plant after a Memorial Day explosion destroyed the central Minnesota facility. In addition, Caterpillar also plans to close its forestry equipment equipment factory in Owatonna, Minn., and lay off about 100 workers in January.

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