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Interview with Doug Gibson

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  • Doug Gibson interview 1 Gibson, Doug, interview by Kevin Hughes, Canton, NC, 16 November, 2009. KH: My name is Kevin Hughes and I will be interviewing Doug Gibson today. Doug, do I have your consent to record the interview today? DG: Yes, you do. KH: Okay, thank you. So, when and why did you begin working at the Canton Mill? DG: I began working at the Canton Mill in August of 1972. I had worked at filling stations around Canton for about five years, since I was about sixteen years old. There was no future in working at the service stations, because you had no benefits or anything. I was working about 72 hours a week at the service stations. I was actually making more money clear working at the service stations than I started out at the mill at, but it had no benefits and I was working seventy two hours a week versus forty hours a week. KH: Who owned the mill at this point in time? DG: Champion actually owned the mill at the time I became an employee. When I joined the mill, or went to work for the mill I joined the local… during my probationary time with the mill, actually signed a union card at that time and became a union member. KH: How did that come about? Did anyone approach you about joining the union? DG: John Scroggs, who at the time was a department vice president, came around in the change room and talked to me about it a little bit and I immediately signed the card to join the union. KH: Was there a lot of people, a lot of employees at the mill at that point in time who decided not to join the union. DG: There was some, but not that many. There was probably a little over two thousand employees at Canton and you probably had I'd say less than two hundred that didn't belong to the union. KH: They still received all of the benefits? DG: They received all of the benefits that the unions negotiated in their contracts and everything. They got all that for nothing. KH: I've been fascinated about that since I've moved down to North Carolina, because I'm originally from Pennsylvania, where we have closed shops and if you're getting the benefits of the collective bargaining then you pay in on it. Was there any difference in relationships between workers, like the non-union members versus the union members? DG: No. There was no difference; the company treated each about the same. The union looked after the non-union members as much as they did the union members, because a lot of times you could have an issue come up that affected a non-union member that would affect the union members and they had to fight for them just as Doug Gibson interview 2 hard as they would for a union member because eventually it would take effect on all of us and you have to represent them and try to fight those battles with the company just as much as you do for the union members. KH: What do remember of the period under Champion's ownership of mill and community relations? DG: The mill, as far as community relations, the mill would take and do a lot of stuff for the community. They would donate money and they would try to do things to help the community and all the same as the local would. The local would try to do things that'd help the community especially the youth and all of the community. We sponsored baseball teams, school projects, and different things like that; donated funds to a lot of different organizations, trying to help them get their objective took care of. KH: When did you start, there's a little bit about this in the Under the Workers' Caps book and there's another book about it that I have not read, but when did you start first hearing noise from environmentalist groups? DG: It actually started probably in the early eighties. You started hearing issues about the river in the late seventies and early eighties. You'd hear things about the river and everything and at the time the company, I don't remember the exact date, they started doing some stuff that was trying to improve the river quality, the air quality, and all that to meet guidelines that we knew were coming down from all of the EPA and everybody that we'd have to fight eventually. KH: Having been around Canton, what do you remember of, like any kind of pollution that you encountered growing up? DG: Well, when I was growing up the river was always coated in a foam, it was black; not tea colored like it is now, or less, it was black. The smell was awful. Vehicles that were in the parking lot were covered in ash and everything else, and all like that. That was in the early years that I went to work there. Then they started doing the improvements and you saw some changes in the air and the water, the smell and all like that. KH: Switching topics to more recent times, how did you first come to hear that the mill was up for sale, in the '90s? DG: Well, to start off with we heard that Champion had formed a small group to do some due diligence on the business end of the company. What they wanted to focus on, what mills were productive and actually made money, what sector of the business they wanted to stay in, what they wanted to get out of. And we were all concerned about that, because we didn't know how it could impact us at the Canton mill and other locations. Then, after they actually did their stuff and came back, we heard rumors that they were going to put mills up for sale, but it was all rumors. We had heard that the Hamilton mill, which was one of the older mills that champion had, the Canton mill which was one of the older units, and a few of the other mills that were old; they were looking at them. Are they getting the return from them from the investments that they had put in? Because, at the time they had put a new boiler in at Canton; they had done a fiber line project to clean the river up and reuse the water instead of just dumping it into the river. They had done all that. We thought, well, they spent a bunch of money here, so we're pretty well secure. The CEO of Champion had actually been in this local union hall, had met with us. We had Doug Gibson interview 3 went through some intense training with Doug Davis. He had actually taken some trust seminars, and all, where we were working together to get to a common goal and doing some stuff there that would supposedly help all of us. Then all of a sudden, Champion comes out with the announcement that they're going to sell the Canton facility, the dairy packs, they're going out of that side of the business because it was on the decline. Plastic was going wide open. Everybody was switching from board containers for juice and everything else, to plastic. They were going away from the board into the plastic side of it. And Champion said, with it declining, the business declining so much per year, that they wanted to get out of the business. So they announced that they were going to sell some of the mills, the Hamilton mill, the Canton mill, the dairy packs, and all were going to be sold. And they were going to stream line their business to more free-sheet paper and out of the board business. KH: Before the talk started about the reorganization of the company, were there any layoffs or furloughs, or any talk of such action? DG: We had actually went through some layoffs and reductions for years. I had come to work in '72, was actually laid off in '73, for about five months, worked at Ball Brother Container out of Asheville. I went to work over there, got recalled back to the mill, and went back to work, and actually got in to maintenance after I come back. There was some reduction in the work forces as they modernized and shut down and stream lined some of the stuff at Canton. They had shut down the… we’re looking at one shift out of the finishing room. They had cut back there. We'd had cut backs all along, but most of the time the company would set down with the union and work it out to where it had the least impact on the least number of employees. They actually offered some early out packages for the older employees to where you didn't have layoffs and things like that. KH: Being among the employee shared ownership committee, I guess, when did you first hear about or first start talking about the shared ownership of the mill? DG: At the time I was going on to the executive board as the treasurer and we had a meeting of all the executives of the union to discuss what was going on, what did we want to try to do, what could we do, was there anything to do? We had a president at the time and some others who had went over and met with Frank Adams, to talk to him a little about employee ownership and what we might could do. The executive board selected a group to work on it, talk to him to see if it was feasible, if we could do it, and do all of the stuff there. KH: With Frank Adams, who was it that first got in touch with the other party, was it Mr. Adams coming over here or was it y'all going over and talking to him? DG: They actually met at a restaurant in Asheville; and set down and ate and talked about the employee ownership and what we could do and what we couldn't do. So the president and the international actually met with him at the restaurant. KH: Okay, so y'all searched him out? DG: Yeah, it was kind of a joint deal. He had searched and called and talked and they had talked on the phone some, but they actually had a face to face meeting and talked with him. KH: After the buyout went through, there's already a lot written in that Under the Doug Gibson interview 4 Workers' Caps book about the entire process of the buyout, so fast forward a bit through that... Actually, is there anything that you saw in that, that you think is different than how the author portrayed it? DG: No, not really. The original group sat down; we had to learn what it was, because none of us knew what employee ownership was, how it would come about, how it could work. It took us a while to get up to speed as to what employee ownership was, what we could do, if we could do it. Everybody on the committee originally started out saying there's probably no way we could ever do something like this, and we felt that way for a while. And then, we said that there's a chance that we could do something like this, and we worked through it, we tried to learn everything we could about it, we talked to different people at every level. We got to finding out how many employee ownership programs were around in our community. Lowe's is an employee owner. Then we found out there were some other groups starting out doing the same kind of thing with us, the advantages and disadvantages of employee ownership for the people buying and the people selling. We have an employee ownership in Waynesville right now; Haywood Builders is employee ownership. They started probably just about the same time that we did or just a little after they started theirs, trying to get theirs going. We talked to different ones who did have it. In Ohio, different places that had done it, we talked with some of the steel workers, who had actually been involved in some of theirs where they were shutting the mills down and could do something to try and keep it going, keep the community going, and all; because, that was their hub of the community was the steel plant that was going and it was the same here. That was the hub of Haywood County and the surrounding counties as to what was going on. KH: During the period of collective ownership, what role did the committee have during that ownership period? DG: During the ownership period, most of us went back to work in the plant. We had a couple that did go to salary and got involved in it that way. We selected people to serve on the board of directors and they were voted on by the union members and put in seats there. We had different committees that worked with the company trying to educate our management on employee ownership. We were involved in the process of helping select the CEO, CFO of the company and all like that. But basically, most of us went back to work. KH: Okay, did Frank Adams continue any role in the company after the purchase? DG: He did for just a short period of time. And then he went on to other projects that he was working on, trying to help some other people and all like that. We were involved heavily with the state, the rural center, advantage west, and different groups to try to continue on with the process. We did get a law passed, changed in the state that allowed for the state to help companies that were going to go employee owned. We got it passed to where the state would treat them the same as a new company coming in where they would help them with tax breaks and different things there. So we did get that passed through the state and we were instrumental in doing that. We actually met with a lot of the politicians to get their support and understanding what we were trying to do and what the impact would be on the surrounding area in western North Carolina. We got their buy in on it. We got them to where they actually proposed legislation to change the law. KH: Being in a right-to-work state, did you notice a fair amount of resistance from politicians in aligning with you because the buyout was going on through a union and Doug Gibson interview 5 because the ownership was somewhat associated with a union? DG: We did in the early stages. We saw that a lot of the politicians didn't want to step forward and get involved. But, once we got a chance to meet with them and talk to them and tell them what the impact would be - and explain to them and show them what the impact would be on not only Haywood County, but the surrounding counties. Then they stepped forward, what can we do to help. Because they saw that the impact on Haywood County would be tremendous, Buncombe County, Swain, Jackson, all of Western North Carolina would be actually affected by it. Parts of Tennessee would be really affected by it. Because, we figured it up that $1 that was brought in from this mill changed hands seven times just in the community. We could show them and prove to them how the $1 would affect the whole community, how it affected everything, and what it would do if it was gone. And then, they started coming aboard, and actually coming in, sitting down and talking with us, meeting with us on a regular basis just to try to help. KH: Yeah, I've noticed signs up around downtown Sylva recently, that some of the local business owners are putting it up, it's called a 3 50 campaign, asking residents of the local area to pick three shops out that they wouldn't want to see missing, and over the course of a month spend $50 between the three of them, because of the statistics of local money staying within the local economy. During the period of shared ownership did you notice any changes in worker morale? DG: It’s according to what period you're talking about. In the early stages, there was a change, it took a while, but there was a change in the attitude of the employees. Because after they learned that we're owners now, and they understood a little bit that if the company succeeded, they would get something out of it, and it really changed somewhat at that point. People were trying to do jobs as fast as possible, they were trying to do jobs that would save the company money, because it was all of us that it would affect. And they were doing a lot of the stuff, and it stayed that way for a little while. It changed, it went to the point where people were getting dissatisfied again. They weren't doing like they were projecting or putting out projects that could actually help improve the mill. It changed again. At the end of it, people were distrustful of management and all like that. It was not what the original thing that we had proposed and looked at and all it didn't materialize into what we felt that it should be. KH: With the investment firm that was involved in the buyout, did any relationships develop with them that were similar to between Champion and the union or Champion and the employees? DG: At the early beginning we were really thankful for the group and what we had accomplished and in what we had succeeded in doing and we were thankful to that group. They were working with us and trying to accomplish what we all wanted which was to keep the mill alive, going, make it profitable, to where we all succeeded. They would, of course, make money off of the deal and in tum we would make money off the deal. It was a partnership, really, to begin with. During the months and the time period that we worked with them the group got real close with them. We could talk on a regular basis. We were really involved together, then it started going away a little bit, as far as the involvement. Especially the ESOP original committee, our involvement, went away. These people that we had elected to the board, they were involved with the ESOP committees, but they weren't involved with the original committee as much. Doug Gibson interview 6 KH: Did any changes in the relationships with the investment firm and with worker morale, did they coincide with the profitability of the mill? DG: In the beginning it did, because a lot of people were skeptic that we could succeed. We hit a downturn in the economy, in the paper business at the time and that really set people back a little bit, because the company was not making the money that it should be making. We were just barely surviving. People were not as trustworthy of the group as they had been It was a struggle during that period of time really with the management and with the financial group to keep the mill secure. They were putting some money back into the mill, what they could, we saw that they were putting money in, and that amounted to us not getting the profits off of it because they were turning around and putting the money right back into the mill and the facilities. We actually had some dairy packs, we had bought a facility and were trying to grow the company and do some stuff. At the outset of it, we were told that we were going to have to shut down some of the dairy packs. We shut the Texas facility down. That was a hard blow for us, because here we were trying to save the company, and our whole thing is it's an entire company, but yet, we're turning around and shutting a facility down and that was a hard blow for us to take. KH: Was there any moves made to try and absorb the employees from that division that was shut down into the remaining company? DG: Yes, there was an offer made to all of the employees that were going to be affected. They had the opportunity to relocate to any of the other facilities as there was openings available. To my knowledge I don't believe we had any that wanted to relocate and move to other facilities. In Texas, they had the opportunity to leave that facility and move into another company in the area and get jobs. Most of the people, well, all of the people there that were at that point did actually take and go in to other plants and go to work. KH: From reading the book about the buyout, it seemed like one of the big initial moves was to bring the environmentalists into the fold, as far as getting the buyout approved and getting public support for it. What was done during the shared ownership period to keep those groups in the fold, to keep those groups happy, if you will? DG: We actually started not just the environmental group, but we started a grass root program to involve the community, the schools, the politicians, everyone. Because, it's not something that you can do without every piece of the puzzle put together. The environmentalists were an important part of it, in the beginning we actually went in and sat down and talked with them. They were skeptical. We brought them in, we sat down, we worked with them, we went back after the buyout. They met with them some more, brought them in to the facility, took them through the plant, explained to them, showed them the testing procedures for the river and the air. We met with them many times, showed them that. We brought some of the school kids in and took them through the process and showed them what the water quality used to be, the air quality used to be, and what they had spent in the facility, and what they were spending in the facility to keep it to where it met all environmental standards. The Canton facility has the toughest environmental standards of any of the mills in the world. We meet those standards and we showed them. You can go to other facilities and check theirs and their standards are not set as high as what our standards are. Their color on the water is not as high. They're on larger rivers and it's not a real big issue, so they don't have to fight those battles. KH:· Over the course of your lifetime, you had mentioned earlier about the quality of Doug Gibson interview 7 the environment when you were growing up, what notable developments, progress have you seen what effects have you seen of the clean-up process in the river and in the air around the area? DG: It's been tremendous. In the early years, people would drive the worst vehicle that you could drive to the mill. We actually had some of them that took undercoating and painted the whole car with it, to try to keep it from rusting down. Now, you can go through the parking lots and you're seeing brand new vehicles there, and they're driving them for years. It used to be if you had a vehicle and it lasted you for six to eight, ten years without it developing rust on it, you were doing good. Now you see vehicles that are not being affected. And, the river, the water quality, I remember when I was working maintenance, we actually hang barrels across the river to break the foam up, it was so bad and try to break it up that way, to where it would improve. Now you don't see any barrels doing any of that, you don't see any foam on the river. The color was black, you couldn't see the bottom of the river or anything. Now, you can look at the river, you can see the bottom of the river, and all. The fish quality in the river was always questionable to whether you could eat them or not. They have actually done some testing on the fish quality in the river. They've put out signs, 'Do Not Eat These Fish.' Now, all of those bans have been… and they’ve retested many times, and all of those bans have been lifted to where you can eat the fish out of the river. There are quite a few fish in the river now, where there weren't before. So, it has made a tremendous change. KH: You know, one of the things that always amazed me where I grew up was it used to be a US Steel industry town, but the newest industry that was in there was Waste Management and there's a couple of landfills, and one of the lakes that they have near the landfills has always been the best fishing you can go for in that area. I never ate anything that I caught out of there, but it was supposedly safe to. But, the thing I was most interested in was seeing that the numbers had returned as far as the fishing goes. DG: And, if you look at the landfills that we have today versus what they used to do, we were the first to put liners in the landfill, put in leach ponds to catch the drain off from them, pump it back through the system, back through our waste treatment and all. We were the first in the state to ever do anything like that. We're continuing the process of that right now, through the landfills and trying to make it as good as can be made in the whole state. KH: With the liners and the pumping the leached water back in, was that something that began during the shared ownership period? DG: It actually began back years before that with Champion. They had applied for new permits to develop a new landfill. As they did, the state was looking at lining the landfills, and they talked about it. They went ahead and did it here without being required to do it. They did put the liners in and the leach ponds, set it up to where it was a test grounds for the state. Now it has been moved on and refined and refined and done to where it is, I don't know of any that's any better than what we have anywhere. KH: How did the idea come about for the mill to sell again, this time to Evergreen? DG: We were in the process of looking at another facility that IP (International Paper) had put up for sale. They were doing all of the due diligence and actually had turned in an offer on the facility, to buy it and become a part of Blue Ridge. At the last minute, Doug Gibson interview 8 Graham Hart stepped in and decided he wanted to buy that facility he stepped in and actually bought the facility. We, at the same time, at Blue Ridge, had won the bid on their number one customer for that facility, had moved to us and was buying strictly from us. When he found out that we were owned by an investment group, he looked and said you mean to tell me that they got my number one customer from this facility is there now. He looked at it, as a business man, and decided that they're owned by them. We were always available to be bought. So at that time he made the decision that he wanted to buy us, put us all in one, because we were in the same business. He made the decision, let's talk to them and see what we can work out and buy that facility. We discussed it numerous times at union meetings, the executive board. What would be the impact to us as employee owners, how it would impact us, would it be a benefit to us? Of course, the man had deeper pockets than we did as Blue Ridge. We saw it that this could be something that could possibly be a good turn for us. Because, if he could possibly put some money into the facility, it would secure the jobs for the area for years to come, knowing that even though he bought us and put us together as a company, we still had the threat of being bought or sold out at a later date. KH: Just to clarify, Graham Hart, right, that's the owner of Evergreen? (affirmed) So, that just made me think, as far as what y'all saw as the role of the shared ownership, it was basically to continue the mill running and the mill was basically up for sale the entire time you were doing it? DG: The mill was always, because of the investment group, they look at it as money, the best time to sell anything off is, of course, when you're making money. They looked at it, can we get our investment money back out of it at this time? The ones of us that knew that we'd be up for sale at some point in time, or we would actually buy the full facility and we would be completely, 100% employee owned. We did not have the means or the way to become 100% owners. So, we knew that eventually it would be sold. But, when it would be sold, we had stock in the company and it would have to be sold. And we felt like if it was sold and we got the money from our stock, then everyone would have a nest egg to fall back on in their retirement years. KH: During the sale to Evergreen was there any movement within the employees to try to hold out and keep a share of the company with Evergreen as the other part owner? DG: The original way it was set up was that if the company sold, we sold, unless we bought the company out ourselves, it would be sold. We actually voted, but we were outvoted because they owned a majority of the company. KH: Was Frank Adams ever brought back into the mix at this point in time? DG: He was not brought back in to the mix. I had talked with Frank, still talk to Frank some. He was not brought back in because at the time we felt like we couldn't use Frank as far as what was going on, because, it was a little more complicated than he had worked on at the time. So we had to rely on different people. We actually had a lawyer who was an ESOP attorney, had worked with the steel workers and all, because we had move from PACE, a steel worker union, we had merged with them, so they had been involved with buyouts of companies that were employee owned and all. They actually have some people that are still involved with those groups and they came in and worked with us some to get the best deal we could get. KH: Just to back track a little, because I don't think I asked this question about Doug Gibson interview 9 during the shared ownership period, were there any layoffs or cutbacks that happened during the shared ownership, other than the closing down of the Texas division? DG: We didn't have any except for a little bit of short term layoffs. We didn't have any, what you'd say layoffs. We were actually hiring people because we had a lot of older people who were retiring out. During the years of Blue Ridge they were retiring out and we were actually hiring people to replace with and we still are. KH: Okay, back to the present ownership period, how did you perceive any changes in worker morale with the most recent change in ownership? DG: You've not seen as much change as what I figure there might be. Of course, we've got new management at the top. The people know that they've got no say in what goes on other than through the negotiations of contracts, and that they're working for somebody else, they're not working for themselves, working for someone else now. It's kind of like it used to be with Champion, that you're working for a paycheck and retirement and benefits and all like that. So you are to somewhat, in my opinion, taking a step backward. KH: Since the most recent sale, has there been any layoffs or cutbacks within the operations here? DG: We've had some short term layoffs because of the business market conditions, of the economy turning so bad in the last few years. We are in the process now of seeing it starting to turn, because the paper industry is the last that's usually hit by a downturn in an economy; and it's the last one coming back out of a downturn in an economy. So, we're seeing now that it is starting to turn, just a little bit, real slow, but it's turning just a little bit. Other facilities, other plants are still being shut down. They announced two weeks ago that they were shutting a facility in Franklin, Virginia completely down that's got 1,100 employees. They're shutting it completely down, they are closing it. We're starting to see a little bit of the trickle effect of that being shut down. Because, once they announce that they're shutting a facility down, their customers start getting worried, are they going to be able to supply us with what we need? So they start going out fishing for new companies that they can get their product from. Can they get it cheaper? Can they get it on time? What do they have to offer? We're seeing a little effect of that now. So we'll just have to wait and see how all of it plays out. KH: With the most recent events here, being that I had been talking to Alan a little bit about lining up interviews, what he's really busy with and what everybody is least a little concerned with around here. I looked online to try to find any news stories about the present negotiations and the last one I could find was, I think, from May. How do you feel about what is going on with the present negotiations? DG: We have just ratified a new five year contract. We had a vote last week on it. The dairy packs were involved in it; the whole original Blue Ridge group had to negotiate a contract. They have done that and they have presented it to the membership; it has been voted on and passed. KH: With what Evergreen presently holds, as far as the paper industry, and what was formerly Blue Ridge that's now a part of Evergreen, how much of the company is union versus like how much of Blue Ridge was union? Did the addition of Blue Ridge up their union membership, percentage wise? Doug Gibson interview 10 DG: No, not really. In the Canton and Waynesville facility we're about 97, 98 percent unionized. The other facilities are about the same. Arkansas is the other plant that they own and it is unionized. We have two facilities that are part of it that are not, do not have a union at all in them. They are looking at those facilities to see if maybe we can go in there and organize them. KH: With a company like Evergreen owning places in different locations like that, like here in North Carolina, we're a right-to-work state, does any negotiation they carry out ever carry over to, or do they match up with their nonunion employees what their union employees have? DG: No, it never will. A union facility, when you go in and you negotiate a contract, you try to maintain and you try to get everything you possibly can for your employees and the nonunion members at this facility reap the benefits of that negotiation. At the other facilities that are completely nonunion, the company, of course, does not have anybody to negotiate with. So, they go in and they tell, this is what you're going to have and this is what we're going to do. Hopefully, you would hope that they would treat those employees with as much respect as they do the union facilities. But, what we have found out in the past is that they usually don't. Because the company can see that they've got no power, and if they want to change their benefits, if they want to change their insurance, all they have to do is go in and say, this is what you've got now and this is what you're going to and this is what it's going to cost you. And, they can do those type things to the nonunion facilities. They can take without any squawk, because if you want to work at this facility, this is what it is, but they're not allowed to do that in union facilities. KH: With the present ownership have you noticed any changes in mill community relationships versus what they were during the shared ownership period or even the Champion owned period? DG: No, not really, because they're still trying to keep a good relationship with the community. They are still trying, they're still donating money out to the community. There's projects that the union employees of the mill and the Waynesville facility do, Christmas baskets, Santa pals that the company still helps support some of it and do some stuff for the community. They're still donating to different projects throughout the community. There is a different process that they go through to do that than what we've had, but they're still doing that kind of stuff. KH: How do you feel about the contract that was ratified last week? DG: Of course, nobody is ever satisfied with the contract. I've never seen a contract where you had a 100% vote for it. There is always a piece that affects an individual a certain way that they feel that, hey I'm not getting the best that I should get or something like that. My feeling is, on the contract, that we have elected officials to represent us and to negotiate these contracts; and, that you have to look at it in its entirety, not pick it apart, I don't like this, but I like that, and look at it in its entirety. Knowing what the other facilities that you have and what is out there in the market and what they're getting. What is kind of a standard for the industry? What's out there? Are we close to the standard? Are we getting close to the standard? Are we exceeding the standard of the industry? Then you have to look at it as a whole, and then cast your ballot, and that's what we've done. Doug Gibson interview 11 KH: Over the past decade and a half or even further back than that, how would you compare your experience within this industry to the bigger picture of the industry? DG: I'd have to say that this facility, the local, and the community fell together during the buyout and supported what the employees were trying to do in saving the company (local operations). It brought a lot of us closer together, it opened doors to where people don't look at the union and see it as a bad thing, the big one with a stick. We are doing stuff that affects everybody. And it has developed a lot of relationships that we didn't have in the past. Going forward, I hope we see that it continues, that we do keep involved with the community, and keep them involved, the environmentalists and all. And try to make it something that will be here for years to come. KH: Now I'm for real when I say only a couple left, but you keep jogging things in my mind. Reading a couple of things, there was an adversarial relationship between the environmentalists and the company before the employee shared ownership. Has any of that ever returned, or has it been more of a relationship of cooperation in trying to get things done since then? DG: The environmentalists are still pushing that they want everything done immediately, and there is no technology out there that we know of, there are bits and pieces where they say this would work here. It has been tried and it has not succeeded. There are still trying to, even now, to push to get the environmentalists to come in and figure out if there's something out there that it would be looked at to see if it's feasible to do and try to improve the environment. Even now, that is out there. It was out there in the past, but not to the degree that it was during Blue Ridge, not to the degree that it has been in the past few years of trying to show them we're doing everything that's feasible and possibly out there. If there's something new that we come up with, we'll have to look at it see and try to do what we can do. At the same time, keeping the company, a viable part of the community going and continue operating. KH: So, it's been a much more open communication between environmental groups and the mill? DG: It definitely was during the Blue Ridge years and it still is pretty well that way now. KH: Okay, then it comes down to good old number 11. Is there anything else that you would like to talk about today? DG: Well, I think we covered just about everything. I don't know of anything right off the top of my head. I think that the community sees the union in a different light today than they had in years past. They know that the doors are open. We're willing to set down and talk. We're willing to help the community. In years past we've done some stuff, donations and stuff that were outside of the community. And we have restricted our stuff to where it is in state, trying to improve and help within the state more than we have in the past, especially the community. So, I think that, I don't know of anything else that's there. KH: Okay, well, cool, I guess I'll stop this there and thank you very much. The recording was stopped, then started again a few minutes later after permission was asked during a conversation following the interview. Doug Gibson interview 12 KH: Doug, do I have permission to record you again? DG: Yes. KH: Okay, thank you. What was done during the shared ownership period to expand union membership? DG: With KPS, you have to have an organization to work with when you do an employee ownership, and they had worked with unions strictly because you had that organization there to work with. They gave us the ability to meet with all new employees, set down and explain to them what a union was, what it was all about, the goods, the bad, and the ugly, and all of it. And, explain to them, especially in North Carolina which is a right-to-work state, that you do not have to belong to the union, but we want people to belong because the more numbers you have, the more strength you have. And they did work with us and allow us the opportunity to meet with all new employees to try to explain to them and hopefully sign them up as union members. KH: Okay, cool, thank you. END OF INTERVIEW
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