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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dora Scott Miller, June 6, 1979. Interview H-0211. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Unionization helps black workers address wage discrimination

This passage reveals something about the lack of power industrial laborers held in the early twentieth century. Miller recalls that the few white women who worked for Liggett and Myers made more money than Miller and her fellow African American employees, but without a union, she had no way to redress this inequality. Unionization finally gave workers the power to demand better wages.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Dora Scott Miller, June 6, 1979. Interview H-0211. 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

BEVERLY JONES:
The women who worked in the cigarette side, I think you said were white women. Did they make more than you did?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Yes! Dollars and dollars more than we made.
BEVERLY JONES:
Why was this?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
At that time, we didn't have a union. I worked with the union when it first started. When they started the first union, that was in '34. They started the first union—I helped write up. Some of the first people, me and Miss Daisy Jones—Miss Daisy Jones and myself wrote up the first ones that was wrote up for the union. Miss Daisy was secretary, and a Mr. Atwaters was the first president for 194, then blacks was in a union to themselves. The whites was in Local 208.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did you ever get a raise?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
I didn't get no raise from '25 till '33 when Roosevelt came in.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did you ever ask for one.
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Well, at that time, you didn't ask. You didn't have nobody to go to face the man for you. You didn't ask like that like you would now for a raise. But when the union came about, that's when they begin the raise. The department I was in, they raised us from twenty cent to twenty-five, and the girls that fed the stemmin' machines, they got thirty cents which was a ten cent raise. We got a five cent raise in the department I was in.
BEVERLY JONES:
You're saying that women that were on the stemmery machine was making twenty cents an hour?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
They was making twenty cents to start with—twenty cents an hour. The hand stemmers weren't making but about six or eight cent a pound for stemmin'.