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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 >>

The costs for siding with the union

The Finleys talk about the many ways that the companies tried to pressure employees to go back to work. As a result of their involvement, Sam did not find work at a mill again until the late 1930s.

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:
When you went to work for the Clinchfield Mill, that would have been in the later part of the thirties, right? What were conditions like then?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, it wasn't too late in the thirties.
VESTA FINLEY:
About the mid-thirties, I guess.
SAM FINLEY:
There was a couple of years I couldn't get a job anywhere. Because they'd check the books, found out who I was, and they found out where I was in that strike in Marion. And they'd have all kinds of beautiful talks, you know, and tales, but they wouldn't say, "We can't hire you because you're a striker."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you went to work for Clinchfield, were conditions better there as well?
SAM FINLEY:
Not much. I went to work; the job was run down, and it was just a break-neck job. And I went in there and worked my eyeballs out trying to straighten it out. And I got credit for trying.
VESTA FINLEY:
But the union didn't affect the Clinchfield people like it did here. They went on for years before the people had to report to Raleigh to the Health Department to get those outside toilets. . . . It was terrible.
SAM FINLEY:
People would go in these outside houses when they. . . . Naturally the mill company wanted to order them out of these houses. They'd give them orders to move out of the house. Well, if they didn't move the sheriff would get a bunch of deputies and tear every piece of furniture out, just cart it out in the street.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Now this was in '29, right?
SAM FINLEY:
'29 and '30. A lot of times when they'd carry this furniture out, that night the house would catch fire and burn down. That done that several times.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you ever. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
I never was in there burning [laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you ever made to leave your house? Did you rent a house from them at the time?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, we weren't living on the mill village at all.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you were sort of protected from that. You were living. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
With my parents.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had they worked in the mill?
SAM FINLEY:
No.
VESTA FINLEY:
His sister did. No, his father run a grocery business and a taxi business.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
In Marion?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
SAM FINLEY:
Well now, one time when they carried all the furniture out of the house, the boy just stood around and watched them; and quick as these deputies left and went back to town, they carried every piece back and set it up just right where it was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did they do to them?
SAM FINLEY:
They never come back. If they'd have done that, later on they'd have carried it out again.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did people do when they were evicted?
SAM FINLEY:
They'd just hunt someplace to move to.
VESTA FINLEY:
That was terrible; terrible what people had to suffer. The company felt like that if people wanted to work for them, if they wanted to work for what they was paying, it was their right to do it. And if they didn't, they wasn't supposed to hire them. And when the union sent me here to organize a union here, they felt like they were infringing on their rights. And the people were living in such dire circumstances, until they were fighting for a better livelihood. And so it was just a cross; well, it's always been that.