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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 >>

Fighting to get worker's compensation

Cobb and Yelton contrast their experiences with workers' compensation and discuss whether it is readily available for employees injured in the mills.

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

PATTY DILLEY:
Who helped you get your workmen's compensation? Did the mill cooperate with you on that?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
The doctor that operated on my leg, Dr. Williams. And then I went to their doctor. I'll tell you how that was. See, I had six doctors in the hospital. I had my doctor. Then we had the doctor that wrapped my leg up and sent me home. And then when my doctor sent me to the hospital, he hired Dr. Williams; that was the third one. Well, Dr. Williams went to California before they put the skin graft on me. He hired Dr. Tyner; that's the fourth. [Laughter] Then something happened to Dr. Tyner; he wasn't my doctor but a couple of days, though. Then Dr. Larry was my doctor there at the hospital. He wasn't my doctor but a couple of days. I didn't put in for my disability for a good bit, because I was still hoping I'd get better where I could go back. I'd rather work. Because I wasn't but fifty-six years old, and that ain't old, I mean to maybe set down and not have nothing to do. When I did have to and I realized I'd have to, I made the best of it, though. And this brother-in-law of mine that I raised fell on the ice and broke his wrist, and he was at home. He was working in Asheville in a government plant, because he'd spent twenty-one years in service, and he'd learned his trade in the service. So he was doing it; he was working in the government plant. So he was driving me around to the doctor's office and different places I had to go. So by that time it had been a good while; it had been a year or over. And Dr. Williams asked me, "Have you ever put in for your disability?" I said, "No, I ain't never went." He said, "Why, you better be going. That's got a deadline on it. It can't wait forever." He thought Bill was out there, my husband, but it was George, and he told George, "Take her down there and make her sign up, because that's got a deadline on it. You tell Mr. Cobb I said to make her go." So on Monday I went. I was on compensation. I was drawing sixty percent of my wages. And I went by the mill and told the personnel manager that I was going by to sign up for my Social Security disability. He said I wouldn't get it, but I went on. And I said, "Well, I'll tell you one thing. If I don't get it, I'm going to come on into Washington after it, because my doctor tells me, and he's pushing me to do it and told me to do it, I never would stand on this leg and walk." So I went on down there, and I signed up, and I put Dr. Williams. He's the one that operated on my leg. And Dr. Wallace got me over the heart attack, blood clot. You know, some doctors will not sign them papers, and everybody don't know that. But I didn't know Dr. Wallace wouldn't sign them. And so I give them two doctors' names--you've got to have two doctors to give--and so Dr. Wallace wouldn't fill out that paper. Never did. So that made me wait months and months on. So Dr. Ward from the Social Security Board called me up and told me she couldn't get him to sign the papers, and so she asked me if I'd be willing to go to one of her doctors, and I told her yes. So I went to their doctor, and I never did hear from it more till my it come in. I got $800-and-some back pay.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why do you suppose he wouldn't sign the paper?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
He didn't sign it for nobody. He was one of them old conservatives, didn't believe in it. He didn't believe in nothing that you could get. He didn't believe in Social Security; he didn't believe in no welfare; he wouldn't even take a welfare patient. If he could get out of it, he wouldn't. The only way he took them was pushed on him; he was a specialist and had to have them. But I didn't know that at that time, see. But he was a good doctor.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you get your workmen's compensation, your check that you were drawing, sixty percent of your wages?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
They're supposed to give it to you if you get hurt in the plant.
PATTY DILLEY:
The mill just went ahead and ...
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Oh, yes, they carry that insurance on you.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was just wondering because some people have problems getting that.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No, that ain't what they have problems getting, honey. If you get hurt in the plant, everybody's entitled to it. In North Carolina, that's a law. Didn't you know that?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. What were you saying, Carrie?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
I said I didn't get it for my surgery on my arm.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No. If you get hurt in the mill, though, in the plant... Now at that time, at the mill, I was paying $1.10 for myself. That was a whole lot of insurance pay. It come out of my payroll every week, but I never collected a nickel on it.
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Ninety() bucks is what I had to pay.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you did hurt your arm in the plant?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, about eight years ago, it slipped off a board and I hit it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were inspecting?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes. Well, the compensation paid the doctor bill, but then I was out two weeks. They didn't pay me nothing.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
But when she went back, they didn't pay her nothing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't they?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
I don't know why they never did pay . [Interruption]
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
So here three months ago, I was lifting a sack. They got some new sacks in the mill, and they were just old big stiff sacks, so big, and a knitter started putting lots more dozens in them. And we were behind, and up on the rack I tried to get one down. And when I got it down, it just wrung this wrist around. And oh, I almost went through the floor. So I worked a week, and it just got worse and worse and worse, so they sent me to the doctor's. I went to Dr. Peters, because there was another woman got her arm hurt, and she went to him, and he did surgery. Did the same thing that I did the first time, did it on the board. But Dr. Peters said he didn't think he could do that surgery, because they thought I had ruptured an artery. So he sent me on to another doctor, Dr. Gardner, and he was off for vacation for a week, so I had to stay out a week; he wouldn't let me go back to work. So he came in on Monday, and I went and I had surgery on Wednesday. But when they got in there, it was a ganglion cyst that had growed all these years where that first hurt, and it growed in my artery. And they had to cut that all out. So I turned it in on my compensation, and they didn't have no record of the first time, so they didn't pay anything, but my own insurance paid eighty percent of it. But all of it come from working down there, being hurt in the plant.