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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 >>

Organizing locals for the IUE in Texas

Pierce talks about his work with the IUE, following his transfer from the CIO in 1954. Pierce explains how he worked to build more locals for the IUE in the state of Texas and how his interest in the civil rights movement coincided with his labor activism.

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:
Your transition to IUE-it makes sense the way you were disturbed by the merger within the organization and you went to work for an international. What kind of residual influence was there from UE. Were all the communist party people … they weren't around, right?
JIM PIERCE:
Well, they had no locals in Texas. I think they may have had one or two small units. You know, like electric, you have a master contractor, you have little tiny units scattered that come under national agreement. There may have been one or two UE units in Texas at that time that I wasn't aware of. One that I was aware of because somebody had wanted me to … asked me to go over and try to raid it, get out of UE and into IUE, and I told them I wasn't interested. There were too many unorganized people to organize, instead of raiding a union that was already established, and I just didn't do it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So your primary commitment then was still to trade union work. I mean, it wasn't that you had gotten so involved with Civil Rights and other things that you were working more with coalition? You were working for IUE.
JIM PIERCE:
I was working for IUE, yes, I was involved in the Civil Rights thing, and one of the understandings we had was that I could continue that completely as a staff member for IUE. In fact, Carey encouraged and protected me during that period because it wasn't easy, you know, to … well, there was a lot of criticism even from our own locals about my involvement in the Civil Rights movement. And when they would complain to Carey, he would just ignore it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What kind of involvements would this kind of work mean?
JIM PIERCE:
Well, during the CIO days we worked real hard … most of it was just getting money together for the legal defense funds fight on what eventually became the Brown case. But then after that, oh in '55 and '56 actually trying to integrate the unions, insisting that we have our conventions, our State CIO Conventions in an integrated facility. There were just all kinds of … like, we organized a plant that was a former AF of L plant that had separate seniority lists, and we forced them to integrate the seniority list. I, you know, … putting non-discrimination clauses in union contracts for example and encouraging others to do it.