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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tessie Dyer's family faced criticism for not joining the union

Tessie Dyer and her parents were criticized for crossing union picket lines at the local mill. She describes how they dealt with the criticism, how it affected the work environment, and what happened to those who joined the union.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. 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

LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember, I think it was in the 30's there was a strike here?
TESSIE DYER:
A strike here? Yeah, I walked in the mill a couple strikes.
LU ANN JONES:
What was it like when the strike was on?
TESSIE DYER:
They'd holler at you and call you "scabby" and things like that.
GEORGE DYER:
What's that word mean?
TESSIE DYER:
I don't know; that's what they'd call you though.
LU ANN JONES:
So what did you think about the people who were striking?
TESSIE DYER:
Well, I'll tell you what I said to one one day.
LU ANN JONES:
What did you say?
TESSIE DYER:
I was going to work and my father had to go early that morning, and my mother, of course, wasn't going. I went with my neighbor next door and her second hand that worked in the weave room, he went with us. This boy hollered out, says, "Hey, Tessie, scabby, scabby." I said, "If I was you, I'd go home and hide my face. I sure would." He never did holler at me no more.
LU ANN JONES:
Was it dangerous to cross the picket lines?
TESSIE DYER:
No, not really because a lot of times when they thought they was going to have any trouble, the law came out. They never did have no trouble down here, not as I know of, but I was in two strikes that I know of.
LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember what years those were?
TESSIE DYER:
No, honey, I don't.
LU ANN JONES:
Why did you decide to cross the picket line?
TESSIE DYER:
I was supposed to go to work, and I was going.
GEORGE DYER:
She's going to work.
TESSIE DYER:
I was going to work, see, and he wasn't going. He just called me that.
GEORGE DYER:
That's the reason he called you scab.
TESSIE DYER:
I said, "If I were you, I'd go home and hide my face. He didn't call me that anymore.
GEORGE DYER:
Did anybody get into fights?
TESSIE DYER:
Um-um. It was Oliver Stover.
GEORGE DYER:
They did in Virginia. They had to call in the National Guard.
TESSIE DYER:
They did at other places here in Charlotte, but not as I know of, they didn't have any trouble down here because the law would always come out, protect them.
LU ANN JONES:
Was there a lot of talk about the strike and organizing in the mill before the strike actually came.
TESSIE DYER:
Um-hum.
LU ANN JONES:
What would people talk about?
TESSIE DYER:
About striking and all. I remember one time, there's a crowd come along out here-then we didn't have a little tool house out here and it wasn't wired in like it is now-this girl, she kept hollering, "Scabby, scabby." Nobody didn't go out or nothing around here; everybody stayed in at night. She says, "Where they's smoke, they's bound to be fire, and I know somebody's at home around here." Everybody around here would just stay in the house.
LU ANN JONES:
Was she part of the union?
TESSIE DYER:
She was the union, yeah.
LU ANN JONES:
How did the organizers contact people in the mills to talk to them about the union?
TESSIE DYER:
On the outside.
LU ANN JONES:
Outside the gate?
TESSIE DYER:
Um-hum, outside the gate.
LU ANN JONES:
So what would happen when an organizer came in, could you tell that the management people at the mill would get upset? How would they respond?
TESSIE DYER:
Not too much because they wouldn't let them come on the inside.
LU ANN JONES:
Could you tell, did they do anything to improve things in the mill when they knew that the union was being formed or trying to be formed? Did things change at all?
TESSIE DYER:
No, they just wanted to get in there. They just couldn't get in there, you see.
LU ANN JONES:
What did your supervisors, did they tell people not to join the union or anything like that?
TESSIE DYER:
No, they wasn't supposed to say anything to us.
GEORGE DYER:
That's against the law. You can't do that, that's one of your rights people has. Our Constitution give them that rights.
TESSIE DYER:
I know one time they said they was going to strike. I don't know if that was after you and I were married or not.
GEORGE DYER:
No, I wasn't
TESSIE DYER:
They all stopped the machines off, but everybody just stayed in there that didn't want to go out.
LU ANN JONES:
So you just shut the machines. . . .
TESSIE DYER:
Closed it down. Them that was going out, they just stopped.
GEORGE DYER:
What did people do, stay?
TESSIE DYER:
We stayed in there.
GEORGE DYER:
I mean didn't work or what?
TESSIE DYER:
No, we just stayed in there and went back to work the next morning.
GEORGE DYER:
Well where did you sleep?
TESSIE DYER:
I mean, they come out, George, at the right time. They come. . . .
GEORGE DYER:
I see, certain hours, changing hours.
TESSIE DYER:
Yeah.
GEORGE DYER:
I thought you meant you stayed in there all the time.
LU ANN JONES:
Instead of striking, they just shut down the machines.
TESSIE DYER:
Um-hum.
LU ANN JONES:
Did things start back up?
TESSIE DYER:
Didn't everybody come out though.
LU ANN JONES:
Did things start back up the next day
TESSIE DYER:
Um-hum.
LU ANN JONES:
Can you remember any other times when there were spontaneous shut downs? Why did people do that? Do you know what had caused them to do that?
TESSIE DYER:
It was the union men and all had them to do that.
GEORGE DYER:
Want to get them organized?
LU ANN JONES:
Did anybody help you walk through the picket line, were there police?
TESSIE DYER:
One time when they was on strike, my mother was working and my father, but this last time that I was speaking about, I went with my next door neighbor. She was in the weave room, and I was in the spinning room. She got her boss man and we walked with him.
LU ANN JONES:
Were there enough people working in the mills to keep the mills going during the strike?
TESSIE DYER:
Yes.
LU ANN JONES:
What happend to those people who struck? Did they get their jobs back?
TESSIE DYER:
Some of them did and some of them didn't.
LU ANN JONES:
Who didn't get their jobs back? Were the leaders the ones who wouldn't get their jobs back?
TESSIE DYER:
No, they was all asked to come back if they wanted to. Some of them would, some of them wouldn't. I guess they's afraid they'd be fired if they did come back.