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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 >>

Organizing the White Oak plant and challenges of organizing southern workers

Wright discusses how the White Oak plant for Cone Mills eventually organized during the early 1950s. In focusing on the role of labor organizer Luke Carroll, Wright describes how the plant eventually voted to join the United Textile Workers via the American Federation of Labor. In addition, he describes what he says as the unique challenges of organizing labor in the South.

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

CHIP HUGHES:
Did you try to organize then? Were you involved in that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Some. You might say, I was still working underneath the cover yet, you know, until I come out and vote for that. Of course we had a secret ballot, you know, and when you'd go vote the company had no way of knowing which way you voted. But we lost the C.I.O. election. And then a fellow by the name of Luke Carroll got in with the A.F. of L. And he come in there and he got started.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was this, Lacy?
LACY WRIGHT:
Let's see. Luke worked approximately twelve months, maybe a little bit longer, before we got enough cards signed for an election.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I believe that was about '52 or '53.
LACY WRIGHT:
He must have come in here somewhere along then. We had the election, and then applied for certification.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This was in A.F.L.
LACY WRIGHT:
A.F. of L.
WILLIAM FINGER:
United Textile Workers.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right. They were broke; they didn't have any money. But there's something about Luke Carroll with them people at White Oak. I ain't never saw no man that could talk to a bunch of people and they'd believe anything in the world he said as much as they did him. Now I don't know why, he had that thing that whatever he said they believed.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you believe him too?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, most of it I did. Now, I've always kind of had in my mind a certain line there that I believe on one side it's right and on the other side wrong. That's always been the way I've looked at things. Now when Luke was on one side and I thought it was the wrong side, and then he moved over to the other side, why, I was against him over there and for him over here. That's always been my idea. But I'll tell you the simple reason why. I always felt like that if you ever do any good in the South to organize textile workers, you aren't going to do it by misinforming them too badly. Now, I don't believe but what in any situation with any cleate but what some of it's going to be propaganda and some of it's going to be the truth. But I believe that if you ever do any good in the South it's got to be when the truth overrides propaganda. These people down here, I've watched them all my life. They are people—I guess I'm right when I say this—that don't want to be bothered. I'll tell you what they want to do. They want to go to work; they want to come home and they don't want nothing to bother them. And they don't want to be bothered, a lot of them, too much with the boss down there, whether they're doing their job right or not. When they get home they don't want to be bothered, they don't want no responsibilities. And why it is, I don't know. I don't understand it, and I fought it for the whole time I was in organized labor, to try to get it across to them "You have got a responsibility." Now, the responsibility to me, and to my family, was to put some food in on their table for them to eat, a house with some furniture in it for them to live. Now then, the only way I can do that is, I got to get enough pay out of what work I do.