Lost 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 wereshipped overseas where labor was plentiful and wages were cheap. Hardest hitwere 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?sHaywood 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 millsinto a worker-owned business. Although they lacked formal training in business, the sixmen artfully forged an alliance with environmental groups, financial powerhouses, andcounty and state governments to reach their goal.George W. Loveland not only gives an in-depth overview of the fight to save the milljobs, he also offers the reader a thorough understanding of the depth of Champion?sinvolvement in the economy and community life of western North Carolina. Long perceivedas a beneficent employer, the company had a mainly positive relationship with itsworkers, who in turn considered themselves proud to be employees of Champion. Theauthor makes clear the devastating impact that the closing of the mill would have had onthe region's economy.Under the Workers? Caps recounts the story from the workers? perspective, with anappealing frankness about their struggles, triumphs, and fears. Perhaps most important, it reveals that, in the often disruptive, rapidly changing international economy of thetwenty-first century, workers themselves are perhaps the most suitable caretakers of thecompany that employs them.This book will appeal to anyone interested in Appalachian economic developmentand 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.