What Happens to
a Dream Deferred?

An Oral History in Search of the Dream

       In the spring and summer months of 1987, paperworkers throughout the United States employed by International Paper, the world’s largest integrated paper company, became involved in a massive work stoppage. This labor dispute involved paperworkers from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania; Jay, Maine; DePere, Wisconsin; and Mobile, Alabama. Participants in the dispute traveled nation-wide and their experiences impacted on national labor relations and the history of the period.

       The beginnings, duration, ending, and aftermath of this strike constitute an important and exemplary case, cut from the cloth of the labor history of the eighties. Yet, to understand this strike is to understand the countless other labor disputes which have taken place since 1987, but fall within the same pattern of experiences which paperworkers lived and are still living to this very day.

       The primary focus of this oral history is upon the events and experiences of participants of the 1987 strike from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. But from their vantage point, as these strikers tell their story, will be revealed the larger national context of significantly increased corporate merger and takeover activities, attenuated union-management relations, layoffs and “downsizing”, and the consequent economic and cultural dislocation experienced by many American workers in recent years.

       The telling of this story will contribute to a better understanding and critique of our society, its lack of economic and social justice for working people. It will provide insights on how to change our society so that working people can pursue and obtain the dream of workplace and societal justice, changing those structures that presently bind us to a place where the dream is impossible.

an Oral History Project by Dr. Bob Allen, Technical Assistance Ron Gruici
Copyright 2007