Title: Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, March 21-22, 1991. Interview L-0064-6.
Interviewer: McColl, Ann
Interviewee: Pollitt, Daniel H.
Abstract: This is the sixth interview in a nine-part series of interviews with civil liberties lawyer Daniel H. Pollitt. In this interview, Pollitt describes in vivid detail the UNC food workers' strike of 1969. He begins by establishing local and national factors involved in the strike. Pollitt notes that during the late 1960s, a wave of similar strikes swept universities nationwide. The civil rights movement, he adds, contributed to the growing awareness of African American food workers at UNC of the unjust nature of working conditions: low pay, long hours, the perpetuation of racial hierarchies that made promotion impossible, and the failure of management to use courtesy titles for African American workers. Pollitt focuses on interactions between the striking food workers and their supporters and opponents among the faculty and students. As a member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the chairman of the Faculty Advisory Committee to Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson, Pollitt played an active role in supporting the strikers. Pollitt outlines the growing tensions between the strike supporters and the state, and he describes how tensions escalated after the food workers established an alternative cafeteria on campus. This led to work on the part of the faculty to establish resolutions that Pollitt and the AAUP proposed, including the establishment of a grievances process. The interview concludes with Pollitt's retelling of how the resolution of the strike, which included higher wages and back pay for the workers, was compromised when UNC outsourced the cafeteria to an outside food provider, leading to a second strike. Pollitt briefly discusses the second strike, describing its impact on university solidarity and the administration's perceived responsibilities to the campus and the community.