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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Christine and Dave Galliher, August 8, 1979. Interview H-0314. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Grassroots actions lead to organization of labor in Elizabethton, Tennessee

Christine Galliher describes in more detail the process by which the 1929 walk-out strike escalated and became more organized. She emphasizes that wages were the primary cause of the walk out and suggests that in general most of the workers were satisfied with working conditions otherwise. Nevertheless, the decision of the women inspectors to walk out served as a catalyst for a larger response. Shortly after their walk-out, other textile workers from both the Glanzstoff and Bemberg mills joined them prompting the beginnings of unionization in Elizabethton, Tennessee. As elsewhere in the interview, her comments here indicate the grassroots impetus for organized labor.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Christine and Dave Galliher, August 8, 1979. Interview H-0314. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have anything else that was the cause of you walking out? Was it just wages, or was there anything else that you were unhappy about?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
Just wages. We decided we wasn't going to work for that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What gave you such gumption?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
We didn't know a thing about a union. We just decided well, we just wasn't going to work for $10.08 a week.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you unhappy about the hours?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
Fifty-six hours, they didn't seem to pay any attention to it. People had never been nowhere, and they'd never done anything. Maybe go to a movie on Saturday night. So I don't guess the hours made that much difference. I don't remember, except I know you'd get awfully tired.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the rules? Bessie Edens was a section girl and then she was a forelady, and she was telling that you'd have to get a ticket from her to go to the washroom, and you could only stay for five minutes.
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
I think maybe she was there before I went there, or it was a different section.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any rules like that about breaks?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
I went to the washroom when I wanted to. I went by my own rules, if you needed to go to the washroom. Oh, you worked so hard, you didn't fudge on them any.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could you take a break or rest?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
No, they didn't take any breaks. They were just supposed to go to the washroom and back.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So out you walked.
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did all of you walk out, the whole inspection room, every single person?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
Yes, as far as I remember, they all just . . . I don't remember who did the talking. You see, they selected the one to do the talking, and they passed the word around they was going to ask for a raise. Said, "If they don't give us that raise, we'll just quit work." And that was it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the signal to quit?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
I guess that they just said, "Come on, let's go." [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened then when you walked out?
CHRISTINE GALLIHER:
It just got in a bigger and a bigger and a bigger mess. Other people kept joining us, first from North American and then Bemberg, because everybody wanted a raise anyway, until that John Penix got in touch with somebody in labor, and an organizer came here and organized. We were arrested twice, on those picket lines. It was over here on the old State Line Road. They brought out the National Guard.