Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Tracy L. H. Burnett, November 15, 1994. Interview K-0088. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Factory closing offers an opportunity for change

Burnett was glad when the factory closed, he remembers, because the closing gave him an incentive and the means, through a Self-Employment Training Program, to find a different job. His coworkers, however, were worried for their futures.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Tracy L. H. Burnett, November 15, 1994. Interview K-0088. 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

JEFF COWIE:
When it closed were you left a little--?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
No, actually I was glad that it closed, I mean, in a sense. See, I didn't plan on staying there, but I needed something to make me leave, you know, needed something to push me on out. When they told us in November that it was closing down it didn't--. I knew I was going to miss the people, but I knew I had to have something to help me get out of there. I hated it for some of the older people that, you know, that's all they did, you know, their whole life. Yeah, I was ready to go.
JEFF COWIE:
Do you remember the day that they announced it?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Oh, yeah.
JEFF COWIE:
What do you remember about it?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
I remember they called us down to the warehouse. I remember a couple of people saying, "Well,--" I think they were talking about, "Well, we're not going to get a raise or something." That's what they thought the meeting was about, "We're not going to get a raise," or something of that nature. I remember this other guy, he was joking, he said, "We're probably going to get a pink slip." And that's actually what it was. [laughter]
JEFF COWIE:
How did they tell you?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
They just came right out and told us point blank, which was the best way to do it. They said they were going to have options, you know, for us to go to school, transfer to the other plant, and stuff like that, retraining so that made it a little better. They didn't have to do all that, but that made it a little better.
JEFF COWIE:
Were you offered a job at the other plant?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Yeah.
JEFF COWIE:
You were?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Yeah.
JEFF COWIE:
Why didn't you take that?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
[laughter] I don't know.
JEFF COWIE:
You were ready to go?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Right, ready to go.
JEFF COWIE:
What was the atmosphere on the line that day or in the plant?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
It was quiet. There wasn't any cutting up. That was on everybody's lips, you know, "what are you going to do?" People were just like, I guess you would say, they were in limbo. They didn't know, I mean, you could tell what was on people's minds. They were concerned. You could tell they were thinking about their kids and stuff like that.
JEFF COWIE:
So even though you had pretty much just bought this place (Tracy's home) you were ready to go?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Yeah, I wasn't worrying about nothing.
JEFF COWIE:
What was the first thing you thought about in terms of what you would do?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Well, when they told us about the options of going to this Self-Employment Training Program, you know, I knew that I would eventually one day own my own business so I knew that I would do well. I would make it doing that.
JEFF COWIE:
They announced this Self-Employment Training right at the day of the closure or did that come up later?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Yeah, the day they announced that we would be closing down they announced that. They said they would have another meeting with more information about it, and if you wanted to attend you just had to sign up, sign this sheet and attend the meeting.
JEFF COWIE:
That clicked with you?
TRACY L.H. BURNETT:
Yeah, that was it. That was made for me.