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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julius Fry, August 19, 1974. Interview E-0004. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Establishment of a union in Lumberton, North Carolina

Fry describes his official introduction to unionization. In 1937, a man named Strickland came to Lumberton, North Carolina, and held a meeting in order to establish a union for the textile workers. While the meeting was held, however, the company had sent spies to determine which workers were joining and the next day twenty-two workers were fired. Fry explains that he was allowed to keep his job, with a demotion, because of his status as a highly-skilled mechanic. Nevertheless, his anecdote here demonstrates one way in which employers sought to intimidate workers from joining the labor movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julius Fry, August 19, 1974. Interview E-0004. 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:
Tell me the first thing that you remember about TWOC and Miles Horton and that whole drive?
JULIUS FRY:
Well, the first thing that I remember was that a fellow, Strickland, from Selma, North Carolina, who had some connection with the union. And he came to the plant, this was in 1937 on, it must have been the same day in April that we had the meeting, or that night. The first thing that he did, he went into Morehead and told him that he was there to organize the plant, that he was an organizer. He said, "I just want to tell you." And he had a purpose in doing it, to put him on notice that they were organizing so that if there were any discharges, they would be acknowledged, see. So, then we had. . . .
BILL FINGER:
You had the protection of the NLRB by then?
JULIUS FRY:
Yes, by then. The NLRB was passed and started in '35, I think that it was. Or maybe declared constitutional. And so, the first meeting that I had was with this fellow Strickland and it was supposed to be in the courthouse downtown, which is in the center of the little town. And I got through some of the workers, they came and told me that they wanted me to come down there at night. I got word from one of the machinists or mechanics out in the machine shop. He said, "Come to the meeting tonight." And he told me, he said, "We're going to talk about the union." And I said, "Alright." And I went. . . .
BILL FINGER:
And he was able to get the courthouse as a meeting place?
JULIUS FRY:
That's another story, let me finish this one.
BILL FINGER:
O.K.
JULIUS FRY:
So, this fellow that told me about the meeting, he had a pickup truck and we loaded that pickup truck and rode downtown in the back of the truck. And we got there and the fellow was standing at the courthouse and he said, "We can't have the meeting here. They claimed that they had it rented already to someone else and didn't know it at the time." He said, "We'll have to meet in my room over here at the hotel." That was just across the street. And he happened to be on the second floor. And so we met there and he talked about the union and we all signed cards, including this man that I rode to town with. And then we looked out over across the street over there in the court yard and there were some people climbing up in the trees peeping over into the window. It later turned out to be company stooges that they got to come and peep in and see who all was in the room. And after the meeting broke up and we came out on the street, my supervisor was standing there writing down the names of the people that came out. And there was another supervisor from one of the other plants writing down names. So, the next morning, 22 people were discharged.