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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Many obstacles to the labor movement result in the loss of activists

Burgess provides a personal account of the dangers and frustrations of labor organizing. Such impediments to unionizing caused many to abandon the labor movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. 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

BILL FINGER:
What about the level of awareness of this whole kind of a labor movement, the organization, with . . . among the workers themselves . . . those places that you did have local unions, as well as where you did not?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yes. It was a semi-religious, a very dedicated bunch of people. And there was real rapport. We weren't considered "those damned intellectuals" at all by the rank and file, and we were very close to the people when we were in Rock Hill. But after a defeat, I remember going back from Charlotte one day later, and at a gas station just happened to run across a fellow by the name of Taylor. He said, "David, I like you like a brother, but I don't want to see you again. You've ruined my life because I took part in that campaign at Aragon Mills. My life's wrecked. My daughter lost her job, I was threatened; I therefore moved here. I will not help in this mill." This was some place between Rock Hill and Charlotte. And I said, "Well, I'm sorry . . . I respect your opinion, you can rest assured that I won't visit your house in this new mill town." And so there were these . . . tragedies, but I would say extreme cases of those who stuck by the movement both in victory and defeat. I remember them very clearly. And I had great respect for him. They liked to complain about things, but they were solid people. But that's what happens to people who suffer this sort of defeat. I was offered a job at that time by the Americans for Democratic Action and I turned it down.