Chair City workers air stories

Jonathan Dudley

Jonathan Dudley

Local 888 member Jonathan Dudley is helping to save — and honor — the hard work and civic contributions of furniture workers in Gardner, known as the “Chair City” and “The Furniture Capital of New England” due to its manufacturing history

Dudley is currently working at the Chair City Community Workshop on oral histories connected to the furniture company Nichols & Stone (See https://www.instagram.com/tracie.pouliot/ ). At the time it closed in 2008, Nichols & Stone blamed the Great Recession “along with a flood of low price/low quality imports” for closing its Gardner plant.

Mount Wachusett Community College instructor Tracie Pouliot collected the interviews a year after Gardner’s Nichols & Stone closed. Pouliot runs the community workshop, where volunteers use the printing and book arts to celebrate the stories of the working people in Gardner.

Dudley, a Head Start teacher at the Montachusett Opportunity Council, volunteers at the community workshop and has transcribed furniture workers’ interviews. After the interview is printed, volunteers sit together and bind each oral history by hand into a book.

“It is a great opportunity to talk about the issues raised in the stories – like why do we think furniture factories closed in Gardner and how deindustrialization has affected our small city,” said Dudley. After 400 copies of each oral history book are printed and bound, the community workshop holds a book-release party to celebrate the interviewees and the volunteers.

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