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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ivey C. Jones, January 18, 1994. Interview K-0101. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

New management treats workers poorly

As he considers the different management styles of different supervisors, Jones comments on the deterioration of the family atmosphere that followed the buyout. The new atmosphere was not nearly as familial and supportive, and a rigid point system did not allow for flexibility. "I wouldn't have asked for a week off if my wife had died" after the buyout, Ivey recalls.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ivey C. Jones, January 18, 1994. Interview K-0101. 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

Earlier you said something about the supervisor coming down to you and saying, "You've got to help me out."
IVEY C. JONES:
Yes, it was the type of thing where some of the supervisors, like the last one we had, Harvey Thompson, was a pretty good guy to work for. He would say, "I really need you to put out and help me out today so we can try and get production." In that instance we didn't mind doing that, we didn't mind doing that at all. Because at least he came down and said, "I need you to really help me get production today." Whereas, Jim ( ), the other supervisor would come down and say, "You've got to get it or else."
JEFF COWIE:
Both of these guys were under Hickory?
IVEY C. JONES:
Right. It was the type of thing where he would say we have to get it or else. He was a real horse's rear end. Nobody really liked him. I particularly didn't like him. He treated you like you were nothing, just a nobody. "You get paid, you do as I say do, that's it. I know everything, I'm Jesus Christ and you're nobody." That's just basically the way things were run. There was a lot of resentment for that particular fact. I mean, had he treated people like decent human beings it would have been a lot different. That was just the atmosphere at White's. I mean, management was God almighty, and you were nobody. You just had to do as you were told. It was basically like being in the service--you don't do as you think, you do as you're told; we get paid for thinking, you just get paid for doing and your opinion doesn't mean much so just keep it to yourself. Even if you gave them your opinion about something they didn't really take your opinion into consideration because they had the type of mentality of "we know it all, you're just a lowly furniture worker, what do you know?" We have worked for companies all over the country, we have all kinds of degrees, we helped bankrupt and shut companies down everywhere so what can you tell us? It was that type of thing.
JEFF COWIE:
How does that contrast with before Hickory came in? What was life like before? You said it was slower paced, it was more of a family business.
IVEY C. JONES:
Before Hickory came in it was basically like family. You basically got along with everybody. You practically knew everybody at the company. I guess there were close to three hundred employees and you practically knew all these people by name. Your work load wasn't that difficult. By not having production rates set you would just work at your own pace. A lot of times that would work out pretty good because a lot of people like to work steady to stay busy to make the day go by. It's just like anything else; you would have some people that were deadbeats whether they are working in a pie factory or not. It was easier then and a lot less tension. Everybody seemed to have gotten along a lot better. It wasn't that much animosity towards one another. If you were working beside a guy, doing the same job, making the same thing, you didn't think that much about it. But if you were working beside a guy, both of you doing the same job he might have been making anywhere from a dollar and a half to two dollars more per hour than you were, it would create a lot of animosity. You would think, we're doing the same job why should he be making more than I'm making? Some people were really just busting their chops. Some people had these positions as inspectors. They didn't have that much to do and they were making good money. They would just stand around and watch everybody else while you were just busting your butt and making a dollar or a dollar and a half less. It created a lot of animosity. When White's was there it wasn't that bad. It was a whole lot easier because then too you didn't have a pint system. The point system means as far as absentees or tardiness goes at the plant. If you have something like three times or eight times within a month period, you were automatically terminated. At White's--before Hickory bought it--it wasn't like that. I mean, if you needed to be out for maybe a week or two weeks you could go to your supervisor or go to management and tell them you have this situation come up and you need to be off for two weeks. A lot of times you would get it. I know when my first child was born, my son, I asked for a week off to be at home to help my wife out and they said, "Yes, no problem, go ahead and take the week off." After Hickory bought the place out I wouldn't have asked for a week off if my wife had died.
JEFF COWIE:
[laughter] I think I have the picture. You also mentioned that "green" was the primary color they were worried about.
IVEY C. JONES:
Money, money, make production!