Radio Address: Jackson urges action to save Northern Maine logging jobs

Posted: November 02, 2017 | Senator Jackson, Weekly Radio Address

For decades, unfair international competition has put the squeeze on the men and women in Maine’s woods. Big landowners hire Canadians to work our forests while hardworking Maine loggers and truckers are forced to sit at home, watching helplessly as their way of life disappears.

This is Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson. I come from Allagash, and my family has been logging for five generations. I’ve been fighting for justice for Maine’s loggers and truckers as long as anyone — starting with a blockade at the Canadian border in the ‘90s, when I stood shoulder to shoulder with my brothers to protest unfair trade and block Canadians from coming in.

I have always believed that in Augusta, we have the power to enact policies to level the playing field and protect Maine workers and Maine jobs. But more often than not, the plight of logging industry workers in Aroostook County is lost on politicians in Augusta. It’s not that they don’t care; They’re just so far removed from the issues at the forefront of our lives.

Hopefully, that’s about to change. A few months ago, Gov. LePage blocked a bill I sponsored to provide relief to the logging industry. So I invited him to come up to Aroostook County to hear from loggers and truckers about the effect of unfair international competition on their families. I knew that if he could hear from us firsthand, we could convince him that something needed to be done.

To my happy surprise, he took me up on the offer. Last week, we hosted Gov. LePage and his staff at the Sly Brook Sno-Riders’ clubhouse in New Canada. There, he heard directly from more than 80 men and women in the forest products industry.

He heard about the effect of Canadian policies at the national and provincial level to protect their workers from competition by Americans. Maine’s forest product industry is at a disadvantage competing with Canadians, whose health care, labor and source material parts are subsidized by their national and provincial governments.

The problems posed by international competition are complex, but they boil down to a basic question of fairness: If Canada can protect its citizens’ jobs, why can’t we do the same?

The governor got an earful during his trip to Aroostook, and he pledged to work with me to address the issues facing Maine’s heritage logging industry. I believe if we stay true to our goal he and I can partner on something meaningful for this industry — a logging bill for loggers, not for the big landowners or anyone else.

The first step should be to incentivize the hiring of Mainers. I’ve proposed a bill for the next legislative session to give a “Hire American” tax credit to companies that hire Maine loggers to cut wood and Maine truckers to haul it.

This is a commonsense bill, but partisanship is threatening it before it even gets a public hearing. Every Republican leader on the Legislative Council voted against allowing my bill to be considered when the Legislature convenes in January. I’m appealing their decisions, because the situation in the Northern Maine woods is the very definition of an emergency.

The governor has heard our pleas and has pledged to work across the aisle to find a solution. Leading House and Senate Republicans should follow his lead, and prove they care about the families whose futures are jeopardized by the imbalance of power at our northern border.

I know for a fact that Mainers aren’t afraid to compete with anyone on a level playing field. It’s time we give them that chance.

This is Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson. Thanks for listening.