Title: Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1.
Interviewer: Finger, William
Interviewee: Pedigo, Joseph D.
Subjects: Trade-unions--African American membership Trade-unions--Textile workers--Southern States
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.