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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Zelma Montgomery Murray, March 4, 1976. Interview H-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Employers stretch out and intimidate workers to get more production

Charles Murray talks about employers "stretching out" workers by having fewer works run more looms. He also mentions not being able to take lunch breaks and being pressured and timed to do a certain amount of work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Zelma Montgomery Murray, March 4, 1976. Interview H-0034. 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

BRENT GLASS:
Did they ever have what they called the "stretch-out" here? How did that work?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Well, they stretched you out; they give you more than you could do, give you more machines than you could operate like you ought to. Yes, we ran into that.
BRENT GLASS:
When was that, about? Do you remember that, when that would have happened?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Well, that was long before, a few years before they shut down.
BRENT GLASS:
Was it after World War II?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Oh yes, it was in. . . . Well, they closed down in '54.
BRENT GLASS:
So they had this stretch-out before that?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Oh yes. Well, they done got out of that about, I don't know, maybe a hundred looms operating. They had three hundred and some looms. But they had forty-eight looms, and they had us on, I believe, sixteen looms apiece, you know. Well, they come along and put us on twenty. Well, that was more than we could handle. But they'd stretch it out and give you more than you could take care of. Like it is now, they've got the weavers stretched out, in these other mills.
BRENT GLASS:
They do?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
What happened if you couldn't handle it?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Well, you just wouldn't get good production, you see.
BRENT GLASS:
And did you ever complain to the foreman about it?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Oh yes, we complained, but that didn't matter. We'd tell them if we didn't get good production then that would probably set us a couple of days behind. They had you overloaded. They thought maybe you ought to do a little bit better, you know.
BRENT GLASS:
I see.
CHARLES MURRAY:
See, they paid you by the pick, and a loom made 160 picks a minute. The shuttle went back and forth; that was was called a pick, you know. And they had a clock up there andit to so many picks per loom a day.
BRENT GLASS:
So did you ever feel kind of pressured, with that clock there?
CHARLES MURRAY:
Oh yes, you was pressured all the time.
BRENT GLASS:
You didn't have time to take off and talk or anything like that?
CHARLES MURRAY:
No, no, no.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you get any lunch break?
CHARLES MURRAY:
They didn't stop. You had to stand up and eat like a horse [laughter] ; they didn't stop.