UPIU vs. INTERNATIONAL PAPER: 1983

Big Victory! IP Wanted No 'Replay of J.P. Stevens'

Labor relations at International Paper Co., the nation's largest private landowner had become increasingly difficult. The United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU) represented about 85 percent of the work force, or about 14,500 production workers.

UPIU magazine annoucing the campaign

After nearly 50 years of what the union termed "enlightened cooperation," IP began importing top executives from other companies, hiring anti-union consultants, instigating decertification efforts and discouraging union efforts to organize new plants. UPIU President Wayne Glenn observed, "They didn't used to do that."

Corporate Campaign, Inc. (CCI) suggested a course of action that would send a stern warning to IP's top officials, institutional stockholders and other business allies that the union was preparing to launch a full-scale offensive that could prove very costly to the company.

CCI researched IP and identified the company's vulnerabilities with respect to its corporate structure and numerous sensitive issues. Three immediate moves to get the company's attention were proposed, while at the same time the union would prepare the foundation for a larger, more intense campaign, if necessary.

First, CCI made a presentation to a large conference of UPIU local, regional and national officials and representatives, describing the Corporate Campaign program being developed to help them wage a successful fight.

Paper clipping from the campaign

Second, CCI prepared a centerfold spread for the union's monthly newspaper that was sent to all 240,000 members and also read by the company. The message was clear: the union knows where the company is vulnerable and is ready to use that information to seize the offensive in a major battle. Third, CCI organized a protest at IP's annual meeting in Los Angeles that put IP CEO Edwin Gee squarely on the defensive. One woman stood up and asked, "Chairman Gee, how does it feel to be a baby killer?" Both she and Gee knew that he served on the board of directors of American Home Products, which, like Nestle, was a major marketer of infant formula that led to many infant deaths in Third World countries. Other serious labor, environmental and tax issues were also raised at the annual meeting.

BusinessWeek (June 27, 1983) published an article, "Paper Avoids A Replay of J.P. Stevens," which said in part: "Quietly, with only a hint of open hostility, the United Paperworkers is close to winning a major victory at International Paper Co. Last April, angered by what it saw as IP's increasingly hostile attitude, the union launched the kind of 'corporate campaign textile workers used successfully to win contracts at J.P. Stevens & Co. in 1980. Eschewing the challenge, IP's chairman Edwin A. Gee, suggested to Paperworkers President Wayne E. Glenn that their differences could be settled without a fight...One thing on which the two sides will never agree is the influence of consultant Ray Rogers...in getting Gee to act quickly...Gee denies that Ray Rogers played a significant role in the agreement, but adds, 'You can imagine we've researched his approach.' "

 

Paper clipping from the campaign

On April 27, 1983, UPIU President Glenn sent a message to each member of his executive board: "I met all day yesterday with Dr. Gee, Chairman of the Board of International Paper... He has agreed to a number of concessions and accommodations in the hope that we could resolve our conflict and cancel our corporate campaign against them..." On the same day, Glenn wrote to Rogers: "I want to commend you very highly for the successful way in which you handled this matter for us..."