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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Sr., June 19, 2000. Interview I-0086. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lack of unionization in one manufacturing company

Bush comments on the lack of organized labor within the Hickory Springs Manufacturing Plant over the course of its history. According to Bush, although some of their plants may have had unions, in general the company did not witness the rise of unions during the mid-1940s and mid-1950s. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, he mentions that there were some efforts among Hickory Springs truck drivers to unionize, but their efforts largely failed. Bush notes the role of Hickory Springs management as well, claiming that although the management never actively sought to intimidate workers from joining unions, they did hold workshops in order to encourage employees that they would be better off without organizing.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Sr., June 19, 2000. Interview I-0086. 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

KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And in the `40s and early `50s, I understand that there was some union organizing in the area. Was that something that affected Hickory Springs during that time?
BOB BUSH:
There's always union organizing attempts going on around here. I don't think that one really affected us, not in that time period.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Were there union drives at the plant?
BOB BUSH:
Well, they put the G.E. plant in down here.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
When was that, like '50?
BOB BUSH:
Yes, '49, something like that. That would be when it was. They brought their union with them, and it was kind of chaotic there for a while. People didn't know which way was what, if unions were good or bad. But then when they saw them pull thirty-three wildcat strikes in one year, the people in the area got turned off real fast.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
At the G.E. plant? Thirty-three strikes in one year? What year was that?
BOB BUSH:
I don't know. It was in the early `50s, mid `50s, somewhere around in there.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So that was the first organized plant?
BOB BUSH:
The only unionized plant that I know of anywhere around here. We had some different pushes, but not in '49 and `50 that I remember, [] up in the union.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Was there some going on at other furniture shops?
BOB BUSH:
Could well have been, but if they were, they were not successful.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So none of the furniture industry locally was unionized.
BOB BUSH:
Not to my knowledge.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So there were drives at Hickory Springs later?
BOB BUSH:
Yes, in the `70s or `80s. You know, Hickory Springs goes with a low profile, and of course I always wanted it lower than that, because I just figure you don't need to be tooting your horn to sell people. I wouldn't have a name on a building or a truck if it was up to me. But when someone like a union wants to find you, they'll find you.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Oh, you mean advertising the size of the company would make it a magnet for unions?
BOB BUSH:
That's exactly right.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
OK, I understand what you're saying. When there were union attempts later on, what happened? Could you just tell me about them?
BOB BUSH:
I'm not sure we ever even had a vote here in Hickory. We would call the employees in, tell them what we thought about unions. We used legal advice, of course, as to what to do and how to say it, but we didn't threaten them or anything like that. We just simply told them, "You're just going to be paying your good money out, and we're not going to do anything more than what we can do. It's all we can do." And stuff like that. I don't remember it being any dire problem here in Hickory. We had a couple plants that had some.