Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
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 >>

The Baldanzi-Rieve split in the TWUA

Pedigo discusses the Baldanzi-Rieve split in the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) in 1952. Pedigo explains that divisions within the TWUA were complicated and the result of more than a simple argument between George Baldanzi and Emil Rieve. Nevertheless, he argues that people within the TWUA split into groups in support of one or the other—those who remained with Baldanzi were the "intellectuals" whereas those who gravitated towards Rieve believed the Baldanzi faction had become too radical. Pedigo discusses the impact of this division on the TWUA as an organization. As for the personal impact, Pedigo, who remained loyal to Baldanzi, was fired in 1952.

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:
Was it totally Baldanzi and Rieve, those two individuals and then loyalty to them? Was that the whole motivation behind all of that?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Well no, I don't think that was the whole thing. There was that, of course, but there was a lot more to it than that. Baldanzi was heading up the group that was generally called the intellectual faction and the Rieve group, not Rieve himself, but the Rieve people all thought that these were a bunch of radicals and people that went off the deep end. The fight really would never have taken place, in my opinion, there would have been some hard feelings, but there never would have been the fight except for it being egged on by people that were with the administration and were scared to death of Baldanzi and wanted to get rid of him and they figured that the best way to get rid of him was knowing that he and Rieve did not see eye to eye on anything. They built up this animosity between them and …
WILLIAM FINGER:
Some of the people under Rieve thought that?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Who were some of those people? Was Sol Barkin one of them?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
No, Sol Barkin stayed out of it as much as he could. Sol didn't particularly like Baldanzi, but that was not his type of fight and it was primarily the New England wheels that were in New England at the time, that were instigating that type of approach. But the result was that anything that Baldanzi said about Rieve … and a lot that he didn't say, I suppose, was magnified and built up and fed to Rieve. Anything that was said by Rieve about Baldanzi was in return, fed back to Baldanzi and magnified and blown up and probably a lot that he didn't say. The thing was being pushed because there were a group of us then that didn't know as much as we learned over the years, but we thought that TWUA could go places, we thought that we could become more progressive and we could accomplish some things. I don't think that the fight, from my point of view, it wouldn't ever have gotten as far as it did if we could have foreseen the bitterness and the split that took place. But frankly, we were hopeful that we could win the minds of the people and win at the ballot box and at the conventions. The way that that convention was set up …
WILLIAM FINGER:
This is '52?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
This is '52, and I think that it just disillusioned so many people. A lot of us at that time had never seen a really rigged convention before. We were new at it and I think that's the one thing that caused the degree of bitterness. I think that if we had been older hands and seen a few more things and I have seen them rigged since and I have never got too excited about it. But that was the first one and the conventions before that, there is always a certain amount of rigging, but they had been pretty open and you could have your say up until that convention. Nobody was able to take it in stride who were on Baldanzi's side, they were just all so goddamn mad, they were ready to go anywhere. Of course, Baldanzi then was ready to go anywhere too. He and Rieve had finally reached the parting of the ways and that was the end of it and he started shopping around for a place to go. I would have quit TWUA, but I would never have gone with UTW if I had not been fired the way that I was fired. That made me so damn mad, I didn't know which end was up.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How were you fired?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
I came back from the convention and I felt like the handwriting was on the wall, but I frankly didn't want to go with UTW. And I told George Baldanzi as much, I told George that I was afraid I was going to have to say good-by because I was not going to stay with TWUA but I didn't want any part of UTW either and I was going to have to do some looking around. So, I started looking. Lucy Randolph Mason was a close friend of mine and I called Lucy and she said that she had better get in touch with Van Bittner and that she would get back to me.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This was '52?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yes, so there was no doubt in my mind but that I could go some place in the CIO.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You wanted to stay in the South, though?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yes. Wayne Derncourt came into the office where I was working at Kannapolis, I was trying to organize Cannon Mills at the time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That was your next big target?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yeah and Wayne Derncourt walked in there one afternoon and kept sitting there, waiting for the office girl to leave. I wondered what in the hell it was all about and I figured that I was going to get fired, but I figured that I would get a notice and so on and I was going to make my transition. Well, right after the office girl left, Wayne tossed a letter over there to me and I opened it and it said, "This is to notify you that you are discharged as of today. Check enclosed for three days pay." No notice. I had worked for three days that week, it was on a Wednesday.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were fired that minute?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Fired that minute. I read the thing and put it back in the envelope and reached into my pocket and pulled the keys to the office out and tossed them over to Wayne and said, "Here they are." I walked out and went down to the closest phone booth and picked up the telephone and called George Baldanzi and said, "Are you still looking for some staff people?" He said, "They haven't fired you, have they?" "Yes." He said, "Damn right. I want you to go up to Marshall Field right away." So, I was out of a job about five minutes there. I wouldn't have gone if I hadn't been so goddamn mad, I wouldn't have gone. I just forgot all about the CIO and thought, "Goddamn it, I've organized more plants for this goddamn union than any damn man they've got in this country and they don't even give me a notice." That was what got me.