Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gladys Harris, August 8, 1979. Interview H-0124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Worker's opposition to strikers and unionization

Harris describes her general opposition to unionization efforts. Overall, she had little contact with union organizers during her years of work in Gastonia hosiery mills; however, she does recall some interactions with strikers who she found rough and vulgar.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gladys Harris, August 8, 1979. Interview H-0124. 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:
When you were working throughout your work life in hosiery and sewing, have you ever been in contact with any union organizers or any of them. . . .
GLADYS HARRIS:
No. One time when I worked for Red Heifer he shut down one whole summer on account of the union trying to get us to vote for the union to come in. He just shut his place down. Because Paul wasn't able to work, he let me work. He had three women that were in different departments, that was the floor lady; he let them work, and I worked with them. That summer, we just cleaned up odds and ends and all like that and straightened the place out more or less. Then after it died down about the union, he started back, up full swing again.
PATTY DILLEY:
About what time was this?
GLADYS HARRIS:
I don't know. I don't have no idea really.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you ever see these people from the union?
GLADYS HARRIS:
Un-uh, no. One of the men that worked for him is who they contacted, and he's the one that tried to get the people to say that they would vote if they had a vote. When Red got a whiff of it that something was going to happen, he just closed the plant down.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did the guy get fired?
GLADYS HARRIS:
Yeah, he didn't get to come back after when he started back up. Red said that he didn't want nobody working for him like that. Talking about the union, this GE plant over here, there ain't no way I'd vote for a union. No way in this world, after I saw how they acted and done belonging to the union.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did they do?
GLADYS HARRIS:
Throw tacks in the road, knock people's car light windows out and all of those things. Just rude!
PATTY DILLEY:
Would this be while they were on strike up here?
GLADYS HARRIS:
Um-hum, yeah. They used to picket right up there at the entrance to the plant. One morning I got up, I knew there had been an awful racket all night long, but I didn't know what it was. I got up one morning, you won'd believe this, but the cars was parked all the way back down here to my mailbox on both sides of this road down this way. I knowed right then something was a-happening. I knowed they was up there, and I could hear them a-hollering and a-cussing people that was going by. I didn't do a thing, but I got on the telephone, and I called the law. When I told them, I said, "I'll tell you one thing, they're using all kinds of vulgar language up here, and it's not fit for people to be around to hear. If you all are any law at all, you'll get up here and you'll straighten it out." That man said, "I'll tell you what, the law's up there." I said, "The law ain't a-doing nothing then." He said, "The law can't do nothing with all that many people." He said if they saw one do something that's wrong, they can arrest him, but he said, for that cursing, "That's all of them and they ain't no way we can do nothing about that." That one time, they were really wicked. I was even scared to go out past them to go to my work. I ride with somebody else, but I was scared to go. I used to go right up there and stand and wait for my ride, but after they had that awful strike like that, I didn't go up there another day and stand for my ride. I had a friend that lived straight up here on the road, and I went up to her house and stood and waited on my ride. That one time that they struck, that was awful bad. All that I've ever heard and seen, I'm not telling you no story.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think that unions were always like these people up here?
GLADYS HARRIS:
That's what I wondered. I know they's other unionized places around here, but you never heard tell of stuff happening like it has up here. This friend of mine who works at Central Telephone at Hickory, she says that one time they struck up there, and they had a mess just kind of like they had up here. She said she stayed at home; she wasn't in on it. She told them that she didn't belong to it. She told them she wasn't coming to get into at the doors to work and them up there acting like they's acting. She stayed at home. I think I would be scared to death, myself to work around a place that has a union. They act like all these people act because I'd be scared they'd knock me in the head. They would get fierce.