Under the Workers’ CapsFrom Champion Mill to Blue Ridge Paper
Loveland, George W.
Cloth Edition, $29.00s
Cloth ISBN: 1-57233-365-0
Status: In Print
DescriptionLost in the stock market bubble of the 1990s was the dissolution of American manufacturing culture. With the advent of NAFTA and free trade, countless jobs were shipped overseas where labor was plentiful and wages were cheap. Hardest hit were the workers in America’s small towns and rural areas. Under the Workers’ Caps: From Champion Mill to Blue Ridge Paper tells the story of one particular group of workers in the mountains of southern Appalachia.
In 1997, Champion International Paper, an industrial presence in North Carolina’s Haywood County since 1908, put its paper mills in Canton and Waynesville up for sale. For the employees of Champion, this meant the prospect of an immediate loss of their incomes, livelihood, and way of life. Six men, however, refused to take their fate lying down.
They did the unthinkable to save their jobs: they bought the company.
Under the Workers’ Caps chronicles how these employees of Champion Paper successfully and audaciously engineered the purchase of the company and turned the mills into a worker-owned business. Although they lacked formal training in business, the six men artfully forged an alliance with environmental groups, financial powerhouses, and county and state governments to reach their goal.
George W. Loveland not only gives an in-depth overview of the fight to save the mill jobs, he also offers the reader a thorough understanding of the depth of Champion’s involvement in the economy and community life of western North Carolina. Long perceived as a beneficent employer, the company had a mainly positive relationship with its
workers, who in turn considered themselves proud to be employees of Champion. The author makes clear the devastating impact that the closing of the mill would have had on the region’s economy.
Under the Workers’ Caps recounts the story from the workers’ perspective, with an appealing frankness about their struggles, triumphs, and fears. Perhaps most important, it reveals that, in the often disruptive, rapidly changing international economy of the twenty-first century, workers themselves are perhaps the most suitable caretakers of the
company that employs them.
This book will appeal to anyone interested in Appalachian economic development and the future of the region.
George W. Loveland is associate professor and head of Library Public Services at Ferrum College. He has contributed articles to the Journal of Research in Rural Education, Journal of Appalachian Studies, and Virginia Libraries.
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