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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Descriptions of the picket lines

The Finleys talk about how the logistics of running a strike on a day-to-day basis.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said the women were on the picket lines. Describe how the picket lines worked. Did they go all day and all night, or did they only go. .
SAM FINLEY:
They changed shifts. At every gate, every place you could get into the mill they put anywhere from two to six to eight men. And they had these oil drums, and burnt coal to keep warm at night. They didn't let nobody get near; owners nor nobody else.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did some people cross the picket line? The loyal workers, the people who were scabbing?
SAM FINLEY:
Not 'til they killed some of them and shot them down. Now they had some coal that needed to be unloaded. Well, Mr. Baldwin went over here and got a bunch of men to come down there to unload the coal, but the picket line wouldn't let him through. One of them took a walking stick and tapped him up on the side of the head with it. He said: "That'll do; some-one struck me."
VESTA FINLEY:
[laughter] Now there were people in there working before they shot them people down there.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I'm talking about until they shot them. They signed a contract: everything they asked for (and it wasn't much). They worked eleven hours a day. They asked for a ten hour day, and this company agreed to everything they asked for. Except, now, they say: "There's two or three leaders that we don't want to hire back." Well, the union men says: "Maybe we can get them jobs somewhere else; just two or three." They signed this contract up in the school building. And the next morning when they went in to work about seventy-five people didn't have any jobs; they wouldn't take them back. So that's why they struck the second time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you one of the seventy-five?
SAM FINLEY:
I was one of the seventy-five. Wouldn't even let me get my tool box; they brought it out to me. Marion Roydhouse: I wanted to ask: were there children on the picket lines?
SAM FINLEY:
No. Marion Roydhouse: Did the women go on the picket line more often than the men?
SAM FINLEY:
It was mostly men on the picket line.
VESTA FINLEY:
They think a lot of the girls.
SAM FINLEY:
We'd have parades sometimes from here (a hundred or two) parade over to the other mill, you know, and back. They would go run through the parade with a car. They'd give a man fifty dollars to go through the parade with a car. We went over to Clinchfield, and there was a woman got right in front of a car, stretched her arms out that way and dared him to hit her. Well, they got him stopped, and he got a shotgun and a rifle in his car. Some of the boys pulled him out and roughed him up a little bit. They took the guns to town and swore out a warrant for him. And there never was a thing done about it. But later one of Mr. told me that he got fifty dollars put in his hand to run through the parade with his car. But they didn't get through it.