GRAND RAPIDS (AP) -- Workers at Blandin Paper Co. authorized a strike Thursday, just weeks after the company announced it was laying off 298 workers.
The company said the strike authorization does not mean the paper mill's employees will strike, but it gives Teamsters Local 346 the authority to call one.
Blandin employees have been working without a contract since June 30.
On Jan. 8, Blandin announced it will close two of its four paper production lines at the plant, and lay off 298 workers, leaving about 500 workers. That's roughly half the employees it had when it was bought in 1997 by Helsinki, Finland-based UPM-Kymmene.
Union spokesman Pat Radzak did not immediately return a message left Thursday night by The Associated Press.
"The company respects our employees' right to strike under the National Labor Relations Act," Blandin vice president and general manager Joe Maher said in a written statement. "However, we don't think a strike is in the employees' best interest. The paper industry is still facing very difficult times and anything that hurts our business may be detrimental to the mill's future."
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