Title: Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017.
Interviewer: Hughes, Chip
Interviewee: Wright, Lacy
Subjects: Trade-unions--Southern States Children--Employment--Laws and legislation
Abstract: Lacy Wright was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. At the age of twelve, Wright left school in order to start working to help support his family. Wright's father worked for Cone Mills in Greensboro and arranged for Wright to work at the White Oak plant where he worked. Wright explains that it was a common practice for children to work at the same plant as their parents. Wright explains how company paternalism in the mills and in the mill villages helped to facilitate family ties in the workplace: children compromised approximately one-fourth of the labor force in the Cone textile plants during this time. Except of a brief stint with the post office in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Wright worked only for Cone Mills from the late 1910s into the mid-1960s, when he retired. All but two of those years were spent in the White Oak plant. During these years, Wright also lived in Cone Mill villages. Throughout the interview he discusses what it was like to live in company housing, stressing the paternal role of Cone Mills in the lives of their workers. Aside from some efforts at organization and one short-lived strike during the late 1910s and early 1920s, Cone Mill workers largely stayed out of the labor movement until the 1950s. Decent wages and a low layoff rate kept them out of the 1934 general strike, say Wright. Nevertheless, Cone Mill workers were increasingly drawn into the labor movement during the 1950s when organizers from the United Textile Workers/American Federation of Labor and the Textile Workers of America/Congress for Industrial Organization competed for support amongst Cone Mills plants. Wright describes this process and explains his own growing involvement in the labor movement during his last years as a worker for Cone Mills. In addition, he describes his general support of unionization and outlines what he perceives as unique challenges of labor organization in the South.