About 400 union members at a paper mill in Cloquet have voted to authorize a strike.
The vote does not mean that workers at the Sappi Fine Paper Mill will strike. But union leaders now have the authority to call one if they cannot reach a contract agreement with the company.
The authorization vote comes while South Africa-based Sappi is spending $170 million to convert the Cloquet pulp mill to produce a specialized cellulose used in clothing, cell phone screens and other consumer products.
Several other paper mills around Minnesota have closed in recent years as the industry has struggled. Earlier this year Verso Paper closed its Sartell mill after a fire.
A statement from the company expressed disappointment in the vote and said the firm's contract offer is fair and competitive.
Local union leaders could not be reached for comment. Union members make up more than half the mill's 715 employees.
• Follow Dan Kraker on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dankraker