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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brooks, October 2, 1974. Interview E-0058. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Resolution to the food workers' strike

Brooks discusses how the first food workers' strike was resolved. According to Brooks, the food workers decided their goals had been reached when Mr. Prillaman was fired, minimum wages were raised to $1.80, Dorothy Ann Stephens was re-hired, and job descriptions were set. The remaining issue was whether or not the food workers would receive their back pay. Ultimately, the University ended up paying the food workers a total of $180,000 in back pay. When this came to fruition, Brooks explains how food workers who had been reluctant to join the strike said they would stand by the side of the strikers should another situation arise.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brooks, October 2, 1974. Interview E-0058. 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

BEVERLY JONES:
What do you think would be the tuning point of the strike? The firing of Prillaman, the black militancy?
MS. ELIZABETH BROOKS:
That was in our grievances, that. . . and the $1.80 pay raise, the re-hiring of Dorothy Ann Stephens, at the same time we wanted job descriptions and job titles. We asked to have name pins. Because supervisors and managers would come in and just blast out your name all over the place, you know, "Elizabeth, Esther," no one ever thought to address you by your last name. So we asked for name pins. If we had to call them Mr. Prillaman, then we would like to be called Mrs. Brooks, or Mrs. Smith, or whoever. So these are some of the things. But the main three was the firing of Prillaman, the $1.80 - or the 20¢, rather - pay raise, and the re-hiring of Dorothy Ann Stephens, and the job descriptions. We also wanted our back-time pay. That was the first issue. We wanted our back pay, because we knew we had been working overtime and no one had ever received any overtime pay. So right away, the University told Chambers, who was the lawyer, that they would bring in some help to go over these. . . the payroll in the past years. And that they would pay to anyone who had been overworked, they would pay this. So they did, and I don't know who they brought in there. I saw two ladies up there working on the time cards, this type of thing. But they went through them in about two weeks. They paid some people three and four dollars, some two dollars, some maybe 99¢. Oh, and I think about five dollars was the highest they came up with for those people at that time.
BEVERLY JONES:
Five dollars?
MS. ELIZABETH BROOKS:
Mm-hmm. So then, like people that had been there a long time saved check stubs and this type of thing, giving you the hours they had worked, the amount you were making an hour, and how much they had on the check stubs. Of course, Chambers looked at these, and had Federal people come in and look at them and it took them about a month and a half. And of course, the University wound up paying about $180,000.00 in back pay. This is really what turned on the other workers that did not participate in the strike. They came to us and apologized and said that (chuckles), "If you ever decide to do any thing else, we're going to be with you." Because they're the people that got eight, nine, or thirteen hundred dollars. We didn't really get that much out of it. So then, you know, they decided that they would really stick with us from then on out. (laughs)