The Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. The closing of the purchase of the lobster pound's wholesale business by the Maine Lobstering Union is nearing completion. ISLANDER PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Union-based lobster co-operative deal near close

TRENTON — Maine Lobstering Union President Rocky Alley said he will be in Portland on Friday to sign documents to complete the union’s purchase of the wholesale business of the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound from Anthony “Cubby” and Josette Pettegrow.

If the purchase is completed as planned, the union-owned operation will start buying lobsters from Down East fishermen on Saturday.

The Pettegrows will continue to own and run their popular restaurant on Route 3 at the bridge to Mount Desert Island. Their son, Warren, will stay on as manager of the Lamoine-based wholesale business and lobster storage facility.

“We’ll start on the following day,” Alley said in a Sunday evening telephone call. “That’s when we’ll throw the switch.”

According to Alley, the purchase is the culmination of protracted planning and private negotiations with the Pettegrow family.

“We had to keep quiet for two and a half years,” Alley said. “It’s at a point now when it’s all going to fall into place. We’re making history.”

Local 207, an affiliate of the International Associations of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), is getting plenty of help from its union brothers to finance the $4 million purchase.

According to Alley, nine union districts are lending the local $1.1 million for the transaction. The bulk of the funding will come in the form of a $2 million loan from the Kansas City, Kan.-based Bank of Labor. The Pettegrows also will take back a two-year, $1 million mortgage, Alley said.

According the bank’s website, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, along with several related union lodges and other community investors, has owned the institution since its founding as Brotherhood State Bank in 1924. The union currently owns more than 60 percent of the shares in Brotherhood Bancshares Inc., the bank’s holding company.

According to Alley, the union has a “three-phase plan” for a statewide cooperative that will buy lobsters in an area running from Down East to the New Hampshire border.

Phase One will be to establish buying operations in Jonesport and Beals Island, Vinalhaven, Mount Desert Island and Stonington. The next step will be to move into the Rockland and Boothbay Harbor region, then into the southern part of the state.

“We want to be able to include everybody in the state of Maine by the end of the year,” Alley said. “We’ll buy lobsters from anybody that’s got one, and we’ll sell lobsters to anyone.”

Initially, the union operation will continue to sell the lobsters it buys overseas.

“The export business came along with Trenton Bridge,” Alley said. “That’s what we bought, and that’s not going to change. Warren [Pettegrow] has a lot of markets. He could handle twice [as many lobsters] as he bought last year.”

With a plan to buy lobsters statewide, and not just from members, Alley said the union hopes to strike arrangements with existing dealers and cooperatives and change the way Maine lobster is marketed. He and other union leaders have been meeting with dealers and co-ops in various ports along the coast with the idea that they might sell their lobsters to the union operation.

“We want to leave the infrastructure as it is,” Alley said. “We don’t want anyone to go out of business.

That said, he does see some possible changes in the way the lobster business operates.

Currently, he said, the different prices lobstermen get for the catch in various ports “always drove fishermen apart.” Lobstermen who sell to the union cooperative will get “the same price everywhere, every day,” whether they are union members or not.

Only members of the union, though, will get a cash dividend at the end of the year based on the operation’s profits.

“It’s money they’ve never seen on their own,” Alley said.


Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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