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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gordon Berkstresser III, April 29, 1986. Interview H-0263. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lack of unions, then other factors, bring the textile industry south

The industry moved south after World War II because of a lack of unionization, but Berkstresser thinks that the disparity between North and South no longer exist. Instead, businesses are attracted to the South because of low labor costs and low energy costs.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gordon Berkstresser III, April 29, 1986. Interview H-0263. 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

Do you think then it's too much to generalize to say that within all these parts of the industry that's there's still very little union organization?
Yes, because in some elements they are heavy. The ILGWU is very active in some localities and some segments of the industry. When we say there's very low union activity, again, there is a lot of shipping by truck between the fiber people to the fabric people, to the dying and finishing, to the apparel, to the warehouse, to the retail store. I've already got six truck shipments, and that's sort of a minimum. Some of the stuff, from the time the fiber is produced to the time something gets to a store or to the consumer can go through fifteen to twenty different transshipments. That's a unionized industry. That's part of this whole complex, that whole distribution circle, is heavily unionized.
That's really the most noteworthy segment that's unionized, isn't it?
Probably, probably, generally, yes. Of course, even some of the retail industry that distributes it is unionized—some isn't. Some of the garment, some of the apparel, a good deal of the fiber industry, chemical industry, is unionized.
Do you think it's fair to say that some of the industry has moved to South because there are fewer unions than …?
Oh, originally, certainly. I was in prep school in Andover in the mid-40s and I used to stand on the highway and watch the trucks going by, taking the looms and spinning frames from Lowell and Lawrence, Mass. textile mills South. They always went in one direction only. The Northern mills were heavily unionized. I remember at that time that a weaver in those Northern mills—say on a Jacquards—would be operating four looms, negotiated contract. In the South, our weavers in Roanoke Rapids were handling twelve looms. today, you don't have that kind of disparity you're here because you've got lower energy costs, lower labor costs, proximity to market, that type of thing. I don't think there's any real movement into this area now because of…It once was; it isn't now.