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

Workers seek independence as well as higher wages

Wages weren't the only concern of unions; they also addressed failures of company owned housing, health care issues, and debt peonage.

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 Let me stop you for a moment and ask you a related question before we get away from the question of why we got involved in union activities. Sometimes people talk about the . . . you said that there were bread and butter questions involved in it and that the unions could only help you in these matters. How about issues like matters of principle, say working conditions and child labor? What was it like in the textile industry at that time?
Well, in the textile industry, most of it was not only that . . . sure, we needed more money, of course, when we had the NRA, it gave us forty cents an hour, which was a big increase. When you talk about bringing people from six dollars a week to twelve dollars a week and where they have been working sixty hours a week for six dollars a week, and I am not kidding you, that was about the wages. To go to forty hours for twelve dollars a week, it was a big jump, a very big jump. LEWIS LIPSITZ Sure.
Most people lived in company owned houses, which I fortunately didn't live in, but most people did live in company owned houses, they were told who to have in that house. It had a lot to do with having a little personal freedom, too, in your off work hours to do as you pleased. Most of them had company doctors, which you paid out of your paycheck whether you ever used him or not. NRA changed that and of course, when it proved unconstitutional, we were right back more or less where we started. We never had to go back to the old wages, I think that the companies even saw that people just wouldn't stand for that. I think that in the long run, it even helped the industry, I think it stimulated them to have more money. It didn't do what they always say, I even think now that everytime you talk about the minimum wage, about raising it, the companies always talk about having to pay more and will have to close. It has never proved a fact. Those companies who don't operate efficiently or who are just bad managers are just not going to survive at any rate of pay, I think. So, the minimum wage law has not proved that it will run companies out of business, companies who operate efficiently. But certainly personal freedom had a lot to do with it as well as money. LEWIS LIPSITZ That was what I was getting at really.