Peter Kellman


[Excerpt] Since 1937, a social contract existed between International Paper and the paper-mill unions. This social contract is referred to locally as "The Smell of Money": IP pays high wages, and workers and their families don't complain about the foul smell created by the paper mills' pollution that permeates the local communities. When IP broke the social contract by permanently replacing the local workforce with out-of-town scabs, the local community was left with the stink and no highpaying jobs.

In June of 1987, 1,250 workers at International Paper Company's Androscoggin paper mill in Jay, Maine, went on strike. What happened next was a familiar site in the post-PATCO and pre-Wagner Act eras: within two months, all the union workers were permanently replaced, and 16 months later, the strike was called off.

But the story of the Jay workers doesn't end there. While the battle over bargaining rights was lost, the workplace fight was transformed into a broad campaign to exercise local political power. Indeed, out of this struggle emerged a new tool to extend workers' rights.