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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Workers' efforts to organize in the late 1910s and early 1920s

Wright explains that he first became aware of labor unions when he was a child. He recalls one incident around the time he first started working in the late 1910s or early 1920s where company bosses tried to thwart workers' efforts to organize. He remembers that his sympathies were with the workers trying to organize and he believed it was wrong that the employers tried to intimidate them. Wright, however, did not become actively involved in the labor movement until much later, in the 1950s, which he discusses later in the interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. 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:
Let me ask you, Lacy. When was the first time you ever heard of a union?
LACY WRIGHT:
When I was a kid.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Who told you about it?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, they was all over all the mill villages over there because they got a labor movement started—now that was a peculiar thing—in Revolution Plant.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is that right?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When you were a kid?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, when I was young, yes. I don't remember now just what year it was. And the company got on them people so bad about trying to organize down there that they fired I don't know how many of them, take their furniture and set it out in the streets, out of the mill houses and out in the streets. Wouldn't even let the people have time to find them another house and move into it. They had their own constables.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This was in the mill villages.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
In the twenties?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, that must have been about the time I went to work. Yes, right about World War I.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Late teens; '17.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
MRS. WRIGHT:
WILLIAM FINGER:
No, he's not slowing down.
LACY WRIGHT:
They fired and moved out I don't know how many people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What did you think about the union then, yourself? Did you have any feelings one way or another?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, I did. [laughter] The feeling, as I think back—you know, that's been a long time ago—I had then was that that was about as bad a wrong as I ever saw done when they moved them people's furniture out in the streets. Fact was, if there'd have come a rain… They maybe didn't have much, but what they did have would have gone to the bad on them. It would have been a tremendous job to replace it, don't you see? And me being young, that was one thing that's always stuck out to me. There's an old saying: that went against my grain, to see them put them people out of work out on the streets. There was always a little bit of a labor movement and a small segment of the people that had to have the labor movement in their mind. They felt like that was a thing that the people ought to do, was to organize. But, now if they had any kind of meeting—I never did go to one of them, but I've been told—that they'd go way back over in the woods somewhere and meet. Maybe not be any more than five, maybe ten, twelve, something like that, see. And they never did get it completely knocked out, you see. There was always a certain sentiment of the union. So it went on until… Let's see, we got certification in '55, I believe it was, at White Oak.