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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Baldanzi-Rieve schism diminishes labor organizing in the South

This lengthy passage discusses how the George Baldanzi and Emil Rieve factions split the southern labor movement along ideological lines. The tide for helping the southern labor movement, therefore, was halted. The Baldanzi-Rieve rift also exposed larger general trends of union retreat occurring throughout the South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. 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

BILL FINGER:
What kind of guy was Baldanzi? I've heard so many stories . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I knew Baldanzi in his better days. He eventually joined United Textile Workers-AFL. I had some questions about that, but that was long after I was involved. He was too hot. He struck for power before he really had it.
BILL FINGER:
He made big promises?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, he challenged Rieve before he could produce, and Rieve beginning in '48 and '49 was moving his boys in from Massachusetts to take the key positions in the South in terms of organization.
BILL FINGER:
Did you consider them a clear ideological split, Rieve was a conservative . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, he had Al Barkan, his hatchet man.By and large, I think Larry Rogan, the TWUA Education Director and later AFL-CIO Education Director, was one of the few people in between. I think the fight was fairly ideological. Of course, George had his power objectives. He was eventually defeated by Rieve when he challenged him for the Presidency and forced out. If George had just held his fire following his defeat, he would have become the CIO Southern Drive Director after the death of Van Bittner.
BILL FINGER:
He actually did succeed Van Bittner.
DAVID BURGESS:
No. The succession was John Riffe who was all tied up with Movement. The trouble was that Baldanzi moved against Rieve before he could really win. I think the turning point was the '48 convention in Atlantic City, which we all attended, and which Rieve boys won hands down. Later in '50, he challenged again and lost.
BILL FINGER:
Did he ask you to run with him in 1948?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yeah. He got some voice support . . .
BILL FINGER:
Did Glazer and Larry Rogan and all the intellectuals kind of stick with Baldanzi?
DAVID BURGESS:
Not Rogan. Rogan was a swinger between the two factions. We stuck with Baldanzi because George had a real feeling for the South. Rieve had none. We thought George's movement would be the growing edge of this textile movement, and you had to have somebody who could speak to these folks in the cotton mill. Unlike Rieve, he didn't have too heavy a foreign accent.
BILL FINGER:
What about Bob Freeman, Julius Fry, people like that who were around, and southerners . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, Julius was part of the movement.
BILL FINGER:
And they were loyal to Baldanzi?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. We all got purged together. Or some of us resigned before we were fired. But anyway, in '49 I realized that I wasn't long in this world, in terms of staying in the textile union, so Jack Crowl fixed me up to work for CIO Political Action Committee. That was in '49, in preparation for Frank Graham's coming election.
BILL FINGER:
So you actually got pushed out?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I got out before I was being pushed.
BILL FINGER:
Was Glazer going to be pushed out too?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yes.
BILL FINGER:
Ben Siegal was going to be pushed out?
DAVID BURGESS:
Ben Siegal got out, and then he eventually wound up with Jim Carey in the IUE. But it was a sort of a tragic thing because I think we had a real contribution to make. Irrespective of my belief, Operation Dixie was not succeeding, and even our good friend, Walter Reuther, had some fundamental questions about whether he would keep feeding money into this campaign. The fact that we were not collectively successful led in part to the downfall of Baldanzi. Moreover, he didn't have any votes, or didn't have enough votes. We did have some modest political success in the election of Hugo Sims to Congress in the district voting in Columbia, South Carolina. There were little things like this all over the South that were happening in terms of. . . it went beyond just organizing mills.