JAY — Terry Bergeron was a selectman in June 1987 when 1,200 workers at the Androscoggin Mill took to the picket lines in a strike against International Paper Co.

It was his first year in office. Bergeron did not work at the mill. 

Thirty years later, Bergeron is again in office and is chairman of the board.

The strike that lasted 16 months altered the lives of many local papermakers and mill workers, and changed the feeling of job security that generations of mill workers counted on before then.

“It was a sad, sad time. It really was because you were taking money away from families,” Bergeron said.

As the strike continued, their savings dwindled. 

“I’d say there was a division. Back then there was a lot of people in Jay that belonged to the union. Four or five generations of families probably worked there,” he said.

A strike affects everyone, he said, and it did all the way through.

Every board meeting had something on the agenda to do with the strike back then.

Among the discussions was the Police Department’s budget and the need for more money to pay for extra police, he said.

“I am sure there was anger because families were split,” he said. “I haven’t really heard much anger now. A lot of people are gone … I am sure there are some people who think about it and who may still be bitter.” 

Selectmen’s meetings and town meetings always drew a crowd. And, the union and its members packed the Jay Community Building where union meetings were held, he said.

A photo in Julius “Jack” Getman’s book “The Betrayal of Local 14, Paperworkers, Politics, & Permanent Replacements” shows a crowd of people and a white flurry of paper tossed in the air during the spring of 1988 when union workers voted not to accept IP’s latest contract offer. 

Bergeron doesn’t believe people have forgotten about the strike, it is just not as predominant as it once was.

The unions had a group of people who stuck together, Bergeron said. 

“I think the community is still tight. I am not sure how many people work (at the Androscoggin Mill) that are from Jay,” he said. “I know it is a smaller percentage than it used to be.”

IP declined comment for this strike anniversary story.

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Terry Bergeron, chairman of the Jay Board of Selectpersons, was on the board during the labor strike in 1987 at International Paper Co.’s Androscoggin Mill in Jay.


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