Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Why Yelton believes unionization failed

Unionization efforts never took hold in any of the plants where Yelton had worked. She explains why and describes the various things her co-workers had desired and never received. These experiences contributed to the reasons she had to quit her job.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
At any of the plants where you've worked, have there been any efforts to unionize?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Oh, yes, they was out there several times while I worked out there. They didn't get nowhere.
PATTY DILLEY:
At Kayser-Roth?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes. They were on the outside. They never did get inside. When we'd come out, they'd give us literature.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But there never was an in-plant committee or anything?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did people react to the organizers?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
They were just satisfied with what they were giving us. They didn't seem interested in it at all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you interested, though?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No. They strike too much. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you ever been involved in a strike? Have there been any at any of the places where you were working?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No, I've never been.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Not even any strikes that just were organized from within the plant or just lasted for a day?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No, I haven't. I've never known them to have it. Out at Ivey Weavers I've never known them to be out there to even try to have a union. Of course, they sold out to Burlington, and then Burlington went broke. They didn't go broke; they just shut down one of their plants.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When people were unhappy about the way things were going in the plant, did groups of people ever ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Go to the office? Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things like that can happen?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
When they'd think they weren't paying them enough, or if they thought production was too high. Well, it didn't do any good. They didn't do anything about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved in the group of people ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No, I never went to the office.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who would tend to do that? Would there be a certain kind of people who would make that ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, a certain kind. One time a bunch of us were going, and we went up to go and they wouldn't go, so me and this other just didn't go, either. We just come back, because ...
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean you started up to the office ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, and all the rest of them wouldn't go, so we just didn't go either. When I told them that I just couldn't do that work and all, I told them, "Well, I got my chair that I've been sitting in for twenty-four years." So they give me my chair; that's the only thing they give me for twenty-four years' work out there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you feel about that?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
It's just dirty; that's what I think. I think anybody that works that long at any place should... And then they did give us pins for ten, fifteen, twenty years, so I got my pins. And if I'd have worked till next year, I'd have got a pearl for twenty-five years. But I asked the supervisor if there'd be anything else. He said, "You'll take that or nothing."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well:
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
So I just took nothing, because that machine just got on my nerves, and my sister in there said she knew that I'd never stay on a machine. [stand?]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You asked to be moved to a different job?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, and he said that it was that or nothing. We were supposed to have seniority, and I had seniority over lots of them that I could have took their place, but then I wouldn't feel right, to take their job.
PATTY DILLEY:
Could you have gone up and told them, "Now, look, I've been here longer than they have"?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Oh, yes, they know.
PATTY DILLEY:
And they wouldn't put you?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
But they wouldn't do it. So I guess it's the end of my working days if I don't take a notion and get tired of not doing nothing. I think I'll try to get me a job in one of these rest homes or something. I love to work with elderly people. Wait on them, you know. Try to bring a little sunshine into their lives.