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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Sidney Smith, January 25, 1999. Interview I-0081. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lobbying in Washington

Smith describes lobbying in Washington, using his personal experience lobbying against cotton dust regulation as an example.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Sidney Smith, January 25, 1999. Interview I-0081. 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.

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JM: Can you sketch the character of those lobbying meetings up in DC -- who you would've met with and folks in OSHA? SS: Well, there’s all kinds of lobbying. The legislator, the Congress if you will, passes laws which are kind of vague. What they do is grant authority to regulatory agencies to come up with final rules and regulations. So, your lobbying is different depending on who you're talking to. If you're lobbying for or against a particular piece of legislation, you will talk to congressman and senators, but more likely their aides that are in charge of that particular subject. In the regulatory agency you find the department and then the person or persons that are working on the writing portion. So, you are lobbying after the fact of the law being passed to frame or shape the final rules and regulations that are published. So using the cotton dust standard as an example again, we found the right person in OSHA who was working on the writing of that standard. They were quite skeptical. They had been given facts and figures and all these problems with people having health problems. The labor unions were living with them about we have to be as tight as we can. Again, nobody wants anybody to have brown lung. It's an awful disease. We don't want that. If it needed to be controlled in some situations, good. Let's control it. We made that argument. What we were trying to show is that is it is wasteful of national economic resources to try to impose it where it's not needed. So, that's kind of how we were presenting our argument and showing it in costs, in the manufacturing costs, in end product costs to consumers. It is wasteful and unnecessary and would make us uncompetitive against other industries around the country. That's how a regulatory [campaign] would go. JM: About what year did the cotton dust issue get resolved? SS: It started in 1972 and was resolved eight years later in 1980. JM: That much time? SS: That is another thing that one probably learned and picked up from my background, is patience. You're not going to get a quick answer in everything. You have to have the stick to-it-edness to hang tough through a long haul of trying to get people convinced that what you're doing is sincere. It is honest. You're not misleading them. I think that's one of the things right from the get go that I tried to impart in our Hosiery Association's input in Washington, D.C., is reliability. We're not going to mislead you. We're going to give you the facts, good and bad. We're simply here to make our case. We're not in enmity with you. We're just here. I think over the years on this case and a lot of the others, what we did was build up a certain amount of, “You know what? We can trust those guys. They're not trying to pull wool over our eyes. They're not lying to us. They're here presenting just straight information. We can rely on them.” Now we fight real hard to save that and protect that.