Mechanics' Hall, originally called the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, has deep roots in the story of Maine labor. As beloved historian Charlie Scontras wrote, "The MCMA was the state’s first
Mechanics’ Hall, originally called the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, has deep roots in the story of Maine labor. As beloved historian Charlie Scontras wrote, “The MCMA was the state’s first expression of collective consciousness among workers, and its members left no doubt of its importance and value to society.” In honor of this history, we are launching a new labor series.
Join us for our inaugural event with Michael Hillard, author of “Shredding Paper: The Rise and Fall of Maine’s Mighty Paper Industry,” Peter Kellman, and Andy O’Brien for a discussion of the story of labor in Maine’s paper industry.
From the early twentieth century until the 1960s, Maine led the nation in paper production. The state could have earned a reputation as the Detroit of paper production, however, the industry eventually slid toward failure. What happened? “Shredding Paper” unwraps the changing US political economy since 1960, uncovers how the paper industry defined and interacted with labor relations, and peels away the layers of history that encompassed the rise and fall of Maine’s mighty paper industry.
Through a retelling of labor relations and worker experiences from the late nineteenth century up until the late 1990s, Hillard highlights how national conglomerates began absorbing family-owned companies over time, which were subject to Wall Street demands for greater short-term profits after 1980. This new political economy impacted the economy of the entire state and destroyed Maine’s once-vaunted paper industry. Shredding Paper truthfully and transparently tells the great and grim story of blue-collar workers and their families and analyzes how paper workers formulated a “folk” version of capitalism’s history in their industry. Ultimately, Hillard offers a telling example of the demise of big industry in the United States.
Michael Hillard is Professor of Economics at the University of Southern Maine. He has published widely in the fields of labor relations, labor and workingclass history, and the political economy of labor and capitalism. He is author of Shredding Paper: Labor and The Rise and Fall of Maine’s Mighty Paper Industry, newly published in December 2020 by Cornell University Press’s ILR Press imprint. His essay, “Labor at Mother Warren,” won the Labor History’s “Best Essay, U.S. Topic” prize for 2004; his article “Capitalist Class Agency and the New Deal Order,” co-authored with Richard McIntyre (University of Rhode Island) won the Review of Radical Political Economics Best Essay award for 2013. Dr. Hillard regularly provides expert testimony in Maine on macroeconomic and employment issues affecting working people.
Peter Kellman is the past President of ACTWU, Shoe Workers Local 81, past Director of the New Hampshire Committee on Occupational Safety Health and past Chair of the Maine Labor Group on Health. He was a steward for Painters Local 1915 and UFCW Local 1449. He has worked for the Maine AFL-CIO over the years in many capacities most notable during the Strike in Jay, Maine 1987-88. He also served on the Maine AFL-CIO’s Executive Board and presently is President Emeritus of the Southern Maine Labor Council. He has written three books about labor: “Pain on their Faces”, “Divided We Fall” and “Building Unions” and has taught Labor History at the University of Southern Maine and Heartwood College of Art.
Andy O’Brien is a writer, activist and communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO. He writes a column about state politics for the Rockland-based Free Press and co-writes a monthly column titled Radical Mainers about Maine labor and radical movements for Maine Magazine.
Reservations are required for this event; register through Eventbrite to reserve your spot. This event is free for Mechanics’ Hall members and $8 for nonmembers.
Membership with Mechanics’ Hall is free for students and starts at just $50 a year for individual memberships, which includes use of the library, free and discounted access to programs, and much more. Consider becoming a member today and help support programs like this.
(Wednesday) 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
519 Congress Street Portland, ME 04101