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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, July 16, 1974. Interview E-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Whiteville Strike of 1967 and its failure

Hoyman discusses the 1967 strike in Whiteville, North Carolina. This was the first strike Hoyman orchestrated after he became the southern regional director for the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA). Here, he discusses some of the challenges the TWUA in this particular strike and others, and explains that they simply did not have enough workers supporting the strike and bargaining process for the effort to succeed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, July 16, 1974. Interview E-0010. 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

After I was regional director, I guess that the first big thing that happened, which I guess was in '67 by George, we organized a national spinning plant in Whiteville, North Carolina. We had a strike there. That was the same year that Pete Brandon was working for us and I worked with him and we came up with this idea of testing how good we were in Cone by having sample strikes. And we started out with one day, we figured that no matter how scared a person is, he might want a day off, so we would have a one day strike to start with. And then after they get over that shock, I think that the next time we had a three day strike.
BILL FINGER:
The same plant?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
All the Cone plants I think it was. And after the three day strike, it took a long time, that was our problem, we worked up to a one week strike, and Brandon was using students. We had this guy, a real good guy, Gene Guerrera This was the summer of '67. We had Guerrera who had been working for the …
BILL FINGER:
He had been working for the migrants hadn't he?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yeah, but he had been working for the, there is this … SSOC.
BILL FINGER:
The Southern Students Organizing Committee.
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yeah, he was their guy at that point. He was sort of like their top man. He left that and went with us for this project. He and his wife, Nan, recruited kids from Chapel Hill and we had for that one summer, we had maybe eight people, plus Gene. And we used them on Cone and they were helpful in recruiting support from the campuses for the Cone picketing line. It was a lot of fun. He had a sparkle to him. This guy, Brandon, is a very capable guy. He's very hard to keep put, to classify.
BILL FINGER:
Did Gene work under him? Or did they just work all together?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
They reported … Gene didn't report to Pete. He worked well with anybody, he could work with Pete, but on the summer project, Pete was a regular TWUA staff guy. He reported to the regional director, Gene reported to the regional director, but in a roundabout fashion, because the money for the summer interns came out of a special TWUA fund. And then there were two other young fellows on the regular staff, Nick Atkins … he went through the Albemarle strike and he was in Brandon's circle, but he was independent of him somewhat. He ended up leaving and teaching Russian for a year at Duke, a year or two. And now he is working in a factory somewhere. You know, he is one of the early SDS generation people. And then, Rumley, who is also …
BILL FINGER:
Jim Rumley.
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yeah. Those three …
BILL FINGER:
You really had them.
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yeah. And Nick did a good job up in Elkin. Chatham. Next, the Whiteville strike. It was a Blakeney pattern bargaining situation and there were young people down there in the plant. They had the cream of Columbus county working there. You know, it was one of the early plants to go in there maybe in the early fifties, and it had only been there a few years. There weren't any other big factories around there other than a few garment plants. And these people really appreciated getting a factory job instead of tobacco or corn or whatever. But the company, they were tough. I bargained with a guy named Goldman I think it was. So, we had a strike. It started in May and it ended on Labor Day. And we lost. It got up to about 50% scabs. We had unfair labor practices, but we couldn't make it. And we had a secret ballot vote among the strikers on returning to work after four months and the vote was very close. It was about 120 to go back and about 90 to stay out, something like that. It was close. We went back and we bargained for another year. We finally said to the company, "We'll take what you've got on the table." As soon as we said that, they said, "We don't think that you represent a majority." And between that meeting and the next meeting, which was a week later, they had a decert(ification) going in the plant. We tried to get a pro-union sign-up in the plant. We put out a leaflet saying, "If you want us here, we want to know it. We arent going to try to represent people that don't want a union," and there wasn't enough response and we put out another leaflet saying that "If they harrass you, you can get hold of us in the following manner. When you are ready, we're ready."
BILL FINGER:
Was this Pete's strike? Did he stay down there?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
No, that wasn't Pete's strike. He was in Greensboro all that period of time. I basically … I spent a third of the time down there. It was the first time, I had the responsibility to call the shots in a long strike. The Albemarle strike I viewed as a disaster. It was. Part of the reason was multiple direction. The Whiteville thing I ran, I made all the decisions and I knew, I avoided some things that I think had hurt us in the other situations, but it still wasn't enough. So, at any rate, that was '67 and these things go on like that.