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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strategy for organizing local unions for the TWUA

Pedigo describes the strategies he employed as a union organizer for the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) from 1939 until 1952. During those years he successfully organized a number of textiles plants. Here, he focuses on his work in Rome, Georgia, in order to explain how he worked to organize unions. Rather than going directly to the plants and talking to workers, Pedigo would circulate literature about the labor movement around the area and would wait for the workers to contact him. As such, Pedigo paints a portrait of his work as planting seeds from which grassroots movements could grow.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. 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

WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you have some special talent as an organizer, because here was a really major victory in Danville and then the Proximity plant?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
I don't know, I suppose that I was a considerably better organizer than the average, at least while I was organizing, I organized more plants in the South than any other individual has ever organized in the South.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you work harder?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
I don't guess that I did …
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you understand the laws better?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
I think I applied my own theories pretty much and despite writing a lot of letters to the International, I've never been able to get anybody else to do it, but it has always been my theory that no organizer really organizes a plant. You organize a few key people who in turn organize a plant. My approach has always been to first find the people that count and no matter how long it takes, hunt until you find key people in key departments and educate the hell out of them. Once you have got those people, you have surrounded yourself with those people, you will get the plant. If you just take the first guy that comes up with a chip on his shoulder, the chances are that he is mad at the company and the chances are that he should be fired if he hasn't been fired and will be fired the first time he sticks his neck out for the union. So, he is no good to you. You have to be a little bit more selective, which means that you have got to initially take a lot longer in setting up your ground work. It pays off, if you set up quick ground work, sometimes it works, but often you wind up with people on your committee that nobody has any respect for. I have always stuck with that formula, together with another formula that I developed along the road and this was down in Georgia when I got some money to play with. I was organizing a local down there that was pretty good size and they came into a lot of money when they started collecting dues and didn't have any … hadn't learned yet to be greedy. So, I persuaded them to let me use some of it and I started putting out a letter, a news letter on a pe riodic basis to all the post office boxholders.
WILLIAM FINGER:
To everyone?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
To everyone. And I didn't push organizing, I just cited all the good things that I could in passing, all the positive stuff, but made no pitch for organizing as such. I tried to saturate that area.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This is in Rome?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
The whole area around Rome. I kept this up for about six or seven months, but didn't go close to a plant. I didn't try to organize anything, but I kept putting out the propaganda and then I got a nibble from one plant, that they wanted somebody in. It was like shooting rabbits sitting. I knocked off nine plants in this Rome, Georgia area in a year and a half's time, inside of a year and a half.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Which years are that?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
That was about '48 or '49. I think that it was around '48.
WILLIAM FINGER:
In other words, when the people came back to you and said, "Now, we want something." Then, you would …
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Well, not only that, that 's … I started going out and into these areas where I knew they had been getting our stuff. I started going out and actively seeking. I think the first plant was one that alerted me that sentiment was building up and from there I went after them. But I am convinced that if I hadn't done this first work for nearly a year beforehand, it proably wouldn't have paid off.