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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jessie Lee Carter, May 5, 1980. Interview H-0237. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Failure to unionize at Brandon Mill

Carter reveals some of the tactics mill owners used to prevent unionization. She remembers Brandon Mill's anti-union campaign, including hiring a lawyer and sending "two girls" to the mill to warn workers that if they voted to unionize they would lose their jobs. Although Carter and others voted to unionize, and kept their jobs, the union failed to gain a foothold.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jessie Lee Carter, May 5, 1980. Interview H-0237. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
So, you weren't working in the mill when they had strikes around here, were you?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They had one here at Brandon back in 1921. Do you remember anything about that?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No, I don't remember anything about it. I was living in the country then. I know they did have them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And in 1934, I think they had another one. What was your attitude and your family's attitude about having unions in the textile mills?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Now, they did want a union in Brandon. And I voted for it one time. Of course, now, they got a big lawyer. They won, the union won, but still they beat them out of it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long ago was that?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Well, I can't remember how long ago it was.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was it before you left the mill that first time?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
I was working in the mill that time. So, we voted, all of us, we voted for the union. So they have this lawyer, John Bolt Culbertson. They paid him a big pile of money and he voted the union out. But they said, really, the union won.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He was working against the union?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
He was working against it. He didn't want us to have union. And there was two girls that come around and begged all of us spinners: ‘now, don't vote for that union, we don't want it.’ And, ‘if you vote for it, it won't be no time 'til they fire you.’ Well, me and my aunt and two of my best friends that worked next to me, said, 'Well, we're voting for that union. We need it, ‘cause look how they do up North, look how they can get anything they want. And here we are, we don't get anything.’ We went down to the office and voted, and we all voted for the union. And so the girl that tried to keep us from voting, when the union was over with, she was the first one they fired. Some of them met her out somewheres, and told her, ‘Well, you run your legs off getting people not to vote for the union, who got fired? You're the first one that was fired.’ Said, ‘Us that voted for the union is still working.’
ALLEN TULLOS:
But they never did get the union?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No, they didn't get it. They beat them in a way, but see, I don't know what he done.
ALLEN TULLOS:
I thought he always worked on the side of the people that was trying to get the union.
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No, he wasn't. That's what they said, now. I don't know. They said he were against it and they paid him a big pile of money. They would've got it. They said he was the cause of not getting it.