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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jim Pierce, July 16, 1974. Interview E-0012-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Going to anti-CIO meetings as a child in the 1930s

Pierce talks about going to anti-CIO meetings with his father, a member of the AFL, during the 1930s. Pierce grew up near Ponca City, Oklahoma, which he explains was characterized by both populism and a fundamental religious movement. The anti-CIO meetings drew from this religious fundamentalism in order to form opposition to leftist politics. According to Pierce, this was one way that industry used religion to prevent unionization.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jim Pierce, July 16, 1974. Interview E-0012-3. 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:
So you went to CIO meetings, what would your father …
JIM PIERCE:
No, these were not CIO meetings, these were anti-CIO meetings, conducted by the people who were fighting CIO. In that area you had the populists movement, but you also had a very traditionalist fundamentalist type of church movement, and these preachers at their tent meetings would … maybe this is why I don't like preachers too well … would take advantage of the fundamentalists background, the religious background of the people to preach against CIO, and they had some of the most horrible movies and films that you have ever seen. Dad would take us to those meetings because as an AF of L … a very active AF of L member, he was opposed to the CIO.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Would they be in union halls or churches?
JIM PIERCE:
Usually in tents. The ones I remember were in tents.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Was it at a Revival meeting?
JIM PIERCE:
Revival type religious meeting with all of the anti CIO, oh hell, it was no different from what happened in Gastonia in the twenties and things like that. Industry uses religion to beat unions period. It still does, it did then, and will always do it if it can.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So the Carpenters and the other Craft Unions … were they already making some alliances with business at that time? I mean you were so young that …
JIM PIERCE:
I don't think they were alliances. It was just that the CIO posed a treat to the AF of L. the CIO posed a threat to the industry. Industry was using the preachers to defeat the CIO, and the AF of L was glad to see it happen, I guess.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Can you remember the first time you didn't feel anti-CIO yourself?
JIM PIERCE:
Yeah. While I was in the Navy … I don't remember a lot about this … the miners went on strike, and they were CIO and everybody was raising hell about the miners striking during the war, and I thought they were pretty gutsy people, and I think that brief exposure to John L. Lewis and the things that he believed in through the newspapers and over the radio made me feel pretty good about the CIO. But I think probably even prior to that, in Ponca City the workers at one refinery went into the Oil Workers Union which was a CIO Union and they just looked stronger and happier and they were more militant. This was when I was a kid.