LIVERMORE – Last year, 207 workers, including me, lost their jobs when the Otis paper mill in Jay closed. I had worked side by side with many of those people for 25 years. We loved our jobs and took great pride in what they brought to our lives.

Manufacturing jobs like those were a way of life for thousands of Maine families like mine, but sadly that way of life is changing faster than our economy can respond. That pace of change is no accident.

In recent weeks we’ve learned that Akin Gump, the law firm where gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler was a senior partner and continues to act as senior counsel, has not only made millions of dollars representing major corporations who have shipped jobs to China but has also defended Chinese interests accused of dumping cheap products on the U.S. market.

As a former mill worker in Maine, this deeply concerns me.

Though Mr. Cutler has tried to dismiss this new information as nothing more than negative campaigning, one look at the Akin Gump’s website reveals there is a lot of truth behind the accusations.

Akin Gump proudly markets its experience defending foreign companies accused of dumping goods on the U.S. market.

While Cutler was a senior partner at Akin Gump, the firm worked on behalf of foreign companies accused of violating trade agreements by dumping products on the U.S. market: Chinese television makers, Chinese honey exporters, Korean steel producers, and even Korean paper manufacturers.

While Cutler was in charge of opening and managing the firm’s Beijing office from 2007 to 2009, many Akin Gump clients, including General Electric, Hanesbrands, and Honeywell International were sending American jobs to China.

Looking at these facts, it’s perfectly reasonable for people like me to ask Cutler to answer some simple questions.

How, as the man who “organized the office, hired all of the personnel and developed the business” at Akin Gump’s Beijing office, was he able to avoid directly supporting Akin Gump’s clients, Hanesbrands, Honeywell, and GE, as they shipped manufacturing jobs to China?

As a senior partner at Akin Gump, did Eliot Cutler share in the firm’s profits from representing the firm’s clients?

As a senior partner for 10 years, did he approve of the practices of the firm, even though those practices have resulted in the loss of American manufacturing jobs and the defending of unfair trade?

On Monday, Cutler said, “Maine people know that I have not been responsible for exporting a single job to China.”

I am a Maine person, as are the 206 others who worked at the Otis Mill until last year. Frankly, we don’t know this. And we deserve an explanation.

Since losing my job, I’ve gone back to school to build a new career. It hasn’t been easy for me or any of the workers at the Otis Mill, where the average age was 50. Health insurance has been a cause of major anxiety. Since losing our jobs, several workers have fallen ill, and we have had one tragic suicide.

The answers to our questions should be taken as seriously as the circumstances we now live in.

 

– Special to The Press Herald