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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, March 21-22, 1991. Interview L-0064-6. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

UNC resolutions and the outcome of the (first) food workers' strike

Pollitt describes divisions within the UNC faculty, contrasting supporters of the strike to the "law and order" opponents. Despite the persistence of some opposition, the faculty ultimately chose to adopt a number of resolutions proposed by Pollitt and the American Association of University Workers (AAUP), including the establishment of a grievance process. In addition, the food workers were given a raise and awarded backpay. Nevertheless, Pollitt explains that in the immediate aftermath of the strike, the university sold control of the cafeteria an outside food provider and tensions quickly re-escalated, leading to a second strike.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, March 21-22, 1991. Interview L-0064-6. 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

So we decided we ought to have some faculty meetings.
ANN MCCOLL:
Now this was all eight hundred faculty?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Yes. So we did call one and it was scheduled. At that time all the resolutions were adopted and I have them here in my file. There were fifteen or twenty resolutions. There was the Henry Brandis, Dean Brandis of the law school, law and order resolution.
ANN MCCOLL:
And that was that people shouldn't strike?
DANIEL POLLITT:
That they fire anybody who strikes and then there was the impeding of the buildings. Some of the graduates were sitting down on the steps to block the entrance. Anybody who impedes others should be thrown out. Then the Trustees met and the Trustees issued a reminder that this was a place that valued academic freedom, but if you engaged in immoral conduct or dereliction of duty or something, you could be ousted. So there was the resolution from the law school, the law and order one, which didn't pass. There were resolutions that the head of the food service be fired and they were tabled. And there were a number of resolutions, but the important ones were the Pollitt resolutions on behalf of the AAUP and extended committee; and we had three of them which were all adopted and none other were adopted.
ANN MCCOLL:
What were these resolutions?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Well one was that we appoint a standing faculty committee on nonacademic employees and we had adopted a grievance process which we urged that it be adopted so that they would have some place to take their concerns instead of going to their boss, you know. They could go beyond the boss and so on.
ANN MCCOLL:
At this point we didn't have a grievance procedure?
DANIEL POLLITT:
We didn't have grievance procedures. The grievance procedures grew out of the cafeteria strike and it was drafted in my committee by me. It was a good one. It wasn't finally accepted as it was proposed, but we agreed…. The general faculty agreed that there should be one. Mine was submitted as a model. They didn't adopt mine. That would have been too much. Then I recommended that there be a standing committee on the problems of the staff. Ann Queen was the head of the Y and was appointed the head of it and she then pushed the grievance process and all that sort of thing. But we didn't have a faculty committee dealing with nonacademic personal until that time.
ANN MCCOLL:
So if they wanted at some point a resolution passed on their behalf, this was their avenue? They had now a committee that they could go to of faculty who would represent them?
DANIEL POLLITT:
They could go to them if the administration was not responsible. This was because things were happening in the hospital and things were happening to the janitors and the printing department and all around. So this was not just cafeteria workers. This was everybody. And as far as the cafeteria workers were concerned, the resolution on that was that we appoint a mediation committee that will mediate the dispute and come up with recommendations or a settlement. That was adopted and their committee was appointed which did mediate, that came up with recommendations which were pretty much agreed upon. And you know, I forget what they were, but there was a lot of upgrading and they brought in people by the bus load from Raleigh to do personnel work; to interview every worker, to see if he was at the right level and what he was doing. Everybody got written job descriptions. There was a good committee appointed to mediate and it was headed by Paul Guthrie who taught labor management relations at the School of Business and he was a very notable arbitrator in the railway labor industry. Whenever there would be a big major railroad strike he would be appointed by the president to be one of the three on the committee, the blue ribbon committee, to make recommendations and stuff. So he had national repute and he agreed to take time off to settle our little cafeteria strike. He did a great job. Well, then what happened, everybody went back to work. They got the pay raises; they got the $1.80. Everybody got the lump sum under the Federal minimum wage. Everybody was called, "Mrs." Brown. They agreed to open up skill courses and to promote from within. And at the hospital Dan Young, who was on this committee as I mentioned earlier, he was the ombudsman. He started a gigantic program over there to upgrade skills and to promote from within. They did a good job. So everything was happy except unbeknownst to us, the University had decided to abandon the food service. They were now operating at a loss because the wages were up and that meant they had to increase prices. No more twenty-five cent suppers. So coffee went up to a dime. Boy, was there furor over that one. [laughter] Double all at once. But they started to lose money and at the same time, restaurants started to open on Franklin Street, so Lenoir was no longer the only place to eat. There had been two restaurants when we came here, "The Rat" and one that has been closed. But people started to eat and then they started to get refrigerators for their dormitory rooms and people started to eat in their dormitories and people had cars now so they could drive. So the number of people at Lenoir declined and the labor costs were up and the price went up and that caused a further decline. So the University decided to get rid of it. So they got SAGA, which is one of the national chains that operates institutional dining halls. So SAGA came in in late September. They said they weren't hiring anybody. Nobody had a job. They were going to start from scratch and they didn't want any older people who couldn't run so fast. So they fired or they failed to rehire seventy people and they included all the strike leaders.
ANN MCCOLL:
Do you think that was what really what they were intending to do is get rid of potential trouble makers?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Well, nobody knew it. Nobody had any idea. I didn't. I had no idea that the University intended to close down Lenoir, but they did. SAGA came in and SAGA failed to rehire seventy people which did include all the strikers. Then the question was, "Was the agreement with the University binding on SAGA?" SAGA had the grievance. So I don't know. Adam Stein wasn't around. A couple of the strikers, very nice women, they were sisters, didn't go within ten days. So when they protested people rallied around that. That became an issue. They said, "They didn't file their grievance in time. It's their fault." So things kind of went from bad to worse. Then there was a second strike.