Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

National Recovery Act and unions saved laborers from miserable conditions

McGill reflects on the importance of unions and the historical significance of the National Recovery Act. She talks about her own family's working history as informing her pro-worker, pro-union stance.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. 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

LEWIS LIPSITZ This is Thursday, December 12, 1974 and I am talking with Eula McGill of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and we are going to talk about some of her experiences in union organizing. Let me start off with how you got involved in union activity in the first place, why did you get involved in such an uncomfortable thing?
I was involved since I was seven years old. Actually, during World War I, my mother never worked, but she was very . . . she liked anything that she thought was progressive. My father worked at the steel mills and of course, during World War I, there was a lot of organizing going on in the steel mills and the factories. So every time that they would have a union rally, my mother went and that's when I first became conscious of labor unions. I remember asking my father one day, after we came back from a labor rally, of course he had worked that day, and I said, "What is a union?" So, he explained to me in his way, he said, "Now, I'm a union man but where I work doesn't recognize the union. Don't tell anyone that I carry a union card." LEWIS LIPSITZ Where was this?
In Gadsden, Alabama. Then of course, when I went to work in the factory, I went to work during school vacation one summer and worked for awhile in the factory, that experience came in handy later when the Depression came and I needed a job, I did have some experience. So, the working conditions, I think that the people at that time, even the ones that had never had any knowledge of unions, felt that there was nothing that they could do that could make things worse for themselves. So, it was like a ray of sunshine when Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed and set in motion the NRA, the National Recovery Act. And in that, the first section in there, gave the workers the right to organize without being discriminated against. So, people took advantage of it. LEWIS LIPSITZ That was about what, '34, or something like that?
Yes. People came into the union, you didn't have to do any sales talk, in fact, there were practically no mill organizers, paid organizers as such.