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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William J. (Bill) Clinton, June 15, 1974. Interview A-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Minimal influence of labor in Arkansas

Clinton describes the role of labor unions in Arkansas politics. He thinks unions can play a significant role in Arkansas politics, but also that an "individualistic mood," the influence of conservative businesspeople, and the fact that Arkansas is a right-to-work state limits their role. Clinton also comments briefly on the tone of the <cite>Arkansas Gazette</cite>, a newspaper he thinks many Arkansans see as elitist.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William J. (Bill) Clinton, June 15, 1974. Interview A-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
How effective has labor been, state wide and in this district? Especially state wide.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
They have pockets of effectiveness, you know. Where their strength is and depending on what the union is. Some of the unions are very well disciplined and very well organized. You just get the sense of it if you go in, for example, and shake hands at their plant gates. You know which ones are really working hard because they even know an unknown candidate like me. You know, when I'm a candidate. The steel workers, for example. Very good on this thing. They're just strong and well organized.But it varies from union to union.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Newspaper support?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Yeah, some. Anyway, the unions, if they work, in this district can be very strong. I suppose they can affect, just through union members and their families, friends, you know, unknown maybe 35- 40,000 votes.
JACK BASS:
Out of what?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
I think 80- 85,000 union members in Arkansas. So the union movement's not very big and of course we have a right to work law here. Part of the constitution. And in this district there is this sort of individualistic mood because there are a lot of very conservative business people, too, who thought of themselves as Republicans in Ft Smith, Fayetteville and some other place. There are some anti-union people. But if they worked they could be very effective. They were certainly effective in my race. The newspapers. . . . I got the endorsement of the Baxter Bulletin, the Mountain Home unknown and a very respected newspaper. Springdale News unknown me and its one of the Barnwright chain, a very conservative chain of newspapers.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Does the Gazette have any influence over this [district]?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Negative.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Negative influence.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
You know, I like the newspaper. I think it's a great newspaper. But the tone there. . . . There's no telling how many votes . . . I don't know, maybe it didn't cost Fulbright any votes. But they have this arrogant, snide, condescending tone in their editorials which makes it very difficult for people [to accept]. I mean they really did. People identify Fulbright with the tone of the Gazette's editorials against Bumpers. And I think that that's true.
JACK BASS:
The unknown was almost the idea of anyone running against Fulbright. Does that come through?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Yeah. And these people out here. . . . I mean I hate to sound like a redneck but my god these people out here are good. You know they work for a living and don't think about politics very often and are just kind of confused by all this Watergate business. And don't like the prices they're having to pay and the taxes they're having to pay. And want some answers. And, you know, they think those Arkansas Gazette boys are down there having cocktails every afternoon at two or three up in the Little Rock Club overlooking the Arkansas River unknown thinking about unknown