Advanced Democratization
in the American Plywood Industry

Eighteen plywood manufacturing firms in Oregon and Washington are fully owned by their employees and to varying degrees, are also managed by them.*

Two scholarly works describe the history of the firms and their management process (Berman,1967; Bellas,1972). For the present research seven firms were selected for on-site investigation, as representative of the total population of eighteen, considering the variables of age, size, conditions of origin, legal category of incorporation, urban/rural location, and economic performance. In autumn 1973, in-depth interviews were conducted with leading management personnel, workers' elected representatives, and rank-and-file members. The questions posed were of an exploratory nature, and a promise of anonymity in reporting them was a condition of access. The report that follows draws on the two earlier published works as well as the data gained through these interviews.

Founding of Worker-Owned Firms

The first such company, Olympia Plywood, was founded in 1921 (Berman, 1967:85). A group of lumbermen, carpenters, and mechanics pooled their resources and built a plant by their own labor in Olympia, Washington. Most of the workers were heirs to a Scandinavian tradition of cooperative enterprise, common to that immigrant population of the Pacific Northwest. To assemble the materials and purchase a site, the

*In Washington these companies are (name in italics equals the company and the town): Buffelen Woodworking Company in Tacoma ; Elma Plywood Corporation; Everett Plywood Corporation; Fort Vancouver Plywood Company; Hardell Mutual Plywood Corporation in Olympia ; Hoquiam Plywood Company; Lacey Plywood Company; Mt. Baker Plywood, Inc. in Bellingham; North Pacific Plywood, Inc. in Tacoma; Stevenson Co-Ply Inc.; and Puget Sound Plywood, Inc. in Tacoma . In Oregon: Astoria Plywood Corporation; Brookings Plywood Corporation; Linnton Plywood Association in Portland; Medford Veneer and Plywood Corporation; Milwaukie Plywood Corporation; Multnomah Plywood Corporation in Portland; and Western States Plywood Cooperative in Port Orford.