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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 unionization failed in the South, according to Cobb

Cobb explains why the various unionization attempts failed throughout the South. She also talks a little more about why her husband believed in the unions while she did not.

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:
What kind of effect did the Gastonia Strike have on that community afterwards?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
It tore it up for a good while. I wasn't living there when they had the strike that they called the Wild ...
JACQUELYN HALL:
The 1934?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No, I was living up here in Longview then, right here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Wildcat Strike.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes. That shut down the plants everywhere. You know, Gastonia was very involved in that. They went from one mill to the other.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Flying Squadron. What did you hear about that?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
I was living up here then. They did shut us up one night up here at Hickory's plant. And I knew a lot of them at Enka() when they got up there. But Alec Shuford got us out before they got there, shut it down.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you mean?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Got us out of the plant up here at Longview. That's the last I lived in Hickory then, and then I moved.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you keep moving back and forth?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
My husband liked Hickory better, and I liked Gastonia the best. [Laughter] He did. He could get him a good job. He got pretty good-paying jobs up here. But I never could get one, and I always liked to make all I... I never did like to work for nothing; I wanted to get pay for it. And I always could make good down there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved in any of the strikes or ever in a union?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No. My husband was in a lot of the unions, but I never did join one. When they struck up here at Hickory Spinning, my husband was president of that union, but I didn't join it. Because I always knew that North Carolina would never stick. I always had that in my head, and they ain't never. And that's what it takes. You've got to stick together to win anything, and they won't do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why is that?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
I don't know, but they won't do it. Now Alec Shuford come to me at the plant. You see, he had a list of the ones that belonged, but my name wasn't on it. And he come to me on Friday; he knowed they was going out on strike Monday.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did he find out?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
They told him. They knowed it. The organizer notifies them. Anyhow, he come to me and he said, "Are you going to work next week?" I said, "No, Mr. Shuford, I ain't going to work." He said, "Well, you don't belong to the union, I noticed." I said, "No, I don't. I ain't never joined. But let me tell you something, Mr. Shuford, I'll have friends out there on the picket line, and I'm going to have friends in the mill working, and I ain't going to make neither one of them mad. I'm going to stay at home." [Laughter] But I did go up there and watch them on the picket line . But I never have joined a union. But it's not that I don't believe in them; that's the only way you get anything. And if it wouldn't be for up north, we wouldn't have nothing in the South. You know that, good as you are. But they won't stick in the South; it takes sticking. Up north they stuck it out.
PATTY DILLEY:
What makes the South different?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
I don't know, but they just won't do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did your husband join?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
He always believed in it, and he joined. He always believed they'd stick, but they wouldn't.
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
He tried it.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes, he tried them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he ever get fired or lose his job?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was the Textile Workers' Union of America that he was in?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
CIO. He worked nineteen years at the mill, and he was secretary-treasurer of that union and president of it a couple years, at CDA's in South Gastonia. They had a union there at South Gastonia, but it wasn't no good. It wasn't enough of them would stick, see, to get nothing. They wanted the benefits from them, but they didn't want to pay union dues; let's put it that way. And you can't have nothing if you don't.