Money and number of strikers crucial to strike success
Hoyman discusses how money and the number of people available to (or willing) to strike are crucial factors in the success of a strike. Focusing specifically on the Oneita Knitting Mill strikes of 1973, and other related strikes the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) helped to organize in the 1960s and 1970s, Hoyman discusses how these factors operate together and how they can make or break a strike.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, Fall 1973. Interview E-0009. 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
- DAN McCURRY:
I was very impressed with how Benton talked about when the strike was
going on, but what other ways could he have run the strike? What other
decisions could have been made?
- SCOTT HOYMAN:
Well, it's exactly like any kind of a contest. You are only
going to have so many dollars coming in. That's number one.
Number two, really number one, you've only got so many
strikers. This is the scarcest resource in a
strike. You can never increase the number of strikers. The only way that
you are going to have more strikers is if some scabs see the light and
come back out of the plant after they are hired and you agree to let
them join the strike. Now, that's a decision
you've got to be careful on. So, we only had a limited number
of strikers, and we only had a limited number of dollars. And the
question is, "How do you put these things together?"
And you've only got a limited number of time. The strike
can't last forever. You win or lose on the last day, you
don't win or lose on any other day. So, it's a
question of, it might be an endurance contest, it might be like a war,
like a race, a long, long race and you've got to husband your
resources and at the same time, you have to maintain militant posture
and you have to do what you can to upset whatever plans the company may
have toward resuming production or selling their product, or whatever.
And the hardest group of people to put together in a strike is a newly
organized group, because they don't trust each other. There
aren't any interconnections. The only thing
they've gone through is an organizing campaign and in an
organizing campaing, although you may get fired, you win it by a secret
ballot. Now, if nobody knows who you are for, it doesn't take
an awful lot of courage, although it seems to in some instances, to mark
a secret ballot, if you really believe that it is secret. But in a
strike, oh boy. It is an entirely different thing. Your whole job
future, the community relations and your family, you know,
it's all up for grabs. It's a big risk for the
individual. Now, in this kind of strike, for example, where you shut
down Chrysler, you know, nobody expects Chrysler to go out of business
or to decertify the UAW, it would be inconcievable. Like the 50th state
leaving, disappearing. Everybody knows what to expect. So,
it's not like a strike where you are bargaining by striking
for more or less money or more or less compulsive overtime. This is a
win or lose, do or die, be there or disappear.
It's literally a strike for the survival for establishment of
the union. So, you have to balance … the whole issue of
violence. That's probably the biggest choice that we made.
And violence is a difficult commodity. You know, the union
doesn't say, "We're going to have a
violent strike." They'd be crazy. But there may be
individuals on strike whose nature is to pursue this kind of an answer
when confronted by a problem. The guy who on Saturday night has a few
beers and if you disagree with him, well then, part of the recreation is
to go outside and settle it, you know. It's kind of a
- DAN McCURRY:
and I talked about that.
- SCOTT HOYMAN:
And we have people like that in any group. There are people like that on
the company side, there are people like that among the scabs. And so,
the question is what to do about it and what kind of policies you
advocate and what you don't and what you prohibit and what
you don't talk about or say anything about and so there are
all kinds of levels. And most things that happen, you don't
know ahead of time. You hear a vague report, and maybe something
happened, you know. So, this is a big problem and in long strikes, in
1973 in a state that has very little labor organization and is
unfriendly to organized labor, it is a very difficult thing to allow
violence to develop even without a policy of, any policy of promoting
it, but to allow it to develop and still avoid being penalized possibly
in many different ways. So, that was another sequence, and Benton was
responsible for carrying out that kind of policy and Bush and any staff
rep in there, Washington, Pope and then the committee. You've
got to depend on the committee people to agree. You've got to
convince them of what strategy you are going to follow and
you've got to make it believable and you hope that they will
agree and will wholeheartedly cooperate. If they
don't, you are in trouble.