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Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Born in 1908, Joseph D. Pedigo was raised in Roanoke, Virginia, by a father who championed liberal ideas about race and class. In the late 1920s, Pedigo went to work for American Viscose—a synthetic fiber plant—where he soon brought his liberal ideas to bear. In 1931, he was among a small cohort of workers at American Viscose that began working towards the establishment of a union for the company's 4,500 workers. Emphasizing the grassroots nature of their endeavors, Pedigo describes the challenges they faced in garnering a support base and how they succeeded in earning recognition of the local's collective bargaining power from the company. Pedigo worked at American Viscose until 1939, and over the course of the 1930s he remained an active participant and leader in the local union and became a member of the Socialist Party. He talks about the appeal of socialism and his adherence to radical politics; however, by the end of the decade, he had become disillusioned with the party's singular focus on dissociating itself from communists, and he eventually cut ties with the party. Pedigo also describes in detail his activities in the labor movement during these years, paying particular attention to his efforts at including African American workers in the union (an endeavor that ultimately brought him into contact with his later wife, Jennie Pedigo, who was also an active member of the movement) and his participation in flying squadrons during the 1934 general textile workers strike. In 1939, Pedigo was laid off from American Viscose and went to work for the newly-formed Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA). Because of his active role in the local Roanoke union, he was well-versed in the formation of national coalitions, such as TWUA and the Textile Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC). Pedigo worked for TWUA as an organizer until 1952. In this interview, he focuses on several of his organizing endeavors, namely in Winchester and Danville, Virginia, and in Rome, Georgia. By the time he left the TWUA, he had developed a sophisticated organizing strategy that had been very successful in numerous areas. Pedigo concludes the interview by discussing how the Bandanzi-Rieve split affected the work of TWUA and led to his firing. Throughout the interview, he focuses on strategies and tactics in organizing textile workers and the role of various leaders in the movement.
  • Desire for human dignity as impetus for unionization
  • Getting recognition of union as collective bargaining unit
  • Impact of father's liberal views while growing up
  • Disillusionment with the Socialist Party
  • Romance born out of radical politics
  • Participating in the flying squadrons in 1934
  • Role of local unions in the formation of the TWOC
  • Learning to organize and facing opposition to unionization in Winchester, Virginia
  • Strategy for organizing local unions for the TWUA
  • The Baldanzi-Rieve split in the TWUA
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Trade-unions--African American membership
  • Trade-unions--Textile workers--Southern States
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.