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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, Fall 1973. Interview E-0009. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial dynamics at the Andrews and Lane Oneita Knitting Mills

Hoyman discusses the unique nature of the Oneita Knitting Mills strike of 1973 at the Andrews and Lane plants in South Carolina. In particular, he focuses on racial dynamics in the strike, stressing the fact that the Lane plant had a majority of African American workers whereas the Andrews plant was predominantly white. In addition, he explains how organizing this strike in two locations gave the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) a unique challenge.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, Fall 1973. Interview E-0009. 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

SCOTT HOYMAN:
Well, that's one of the unusual aspects of the strike, that we had two physical locations simultaneously in organizing a strike. And Lane, since it was twenty miles away, really had to be handled in a parallel fashion. When we had a commissary in Andrews … we had a commissary in Lane and if we had certain standards for helping people with their financial problems in Andrews, we had to provide the same yardstick in the other location. The groups of people acted quite differently, simply because Andrews was, so to speak, more cosmopolitan of the two situations. And the people from Andrews seemed to come from a greater distance and they didn't … well, there were more variations in the strike groups in Andrews. In Lane, there were almost no whites. There were seventeen white employees out of 230 when the strike began and black employees there, 90% of them would have been under thirty. Most of them were cleancut, peppy, young, black ladies ( ). It was a sewing plant and so, they sort of formed a social center in the Lane strike headquarters, which interestingly enough, was a black Masonic lodge hall right accross the highway from the plant. They stuck together pretty well.
DAN McCURRY:
There was … [unclear] … in Lane … a black mortician, I think it was and … tried to …
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Before the election?
DAN McCURRY:
Before the election. I guess that it would be before the election.
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Well, we were, I didn't get involved until we got over that hump. During the strike, we were concerned about whether the company would be able to get significant black leadership in the community to take a stand against the strike. Or encourage people to scab. The community, the black leadership pretty well stayed, I think, on the union side, although there were maybe a couple of deviations, but they were more from people a long way away, you know, like twenty-five miles from there there would be a little center and somebody would start coming in over the picket lines and then he or she made it, and then there might be some more feed-in. It was that kind of situation. The black community leadership in Georgetown and Jamestown and in that area, I think was pretty much pro-union.
DAN McCURRY:
It's interesting to compare the differences in the workers at the Lane plant and the Andrews plant… [unclear] What were the reasons for the difference in the makeup of the plants?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Well, of course, the reason for the difference was the age of the plants. The Andrews plant of Oneida, I think had been there since '54 or '55 possibly.
DAN McCURRY:
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Could be.
CAROLYN ASHBAUGH:
SCOTT HOYMAN:
And we had some people supporting the union who … and a couple of other people
DAN McCURRY:
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yeah. But Lane was a satellite development and I don't think that it had started until three or four years ago, maybe four or five, I don't know. So, this accounted for a lot of difference. When the original plant started, I don't think that they were hiring too many blacks. It was all white, or basically white. And the second plant, I think, the labor shortage had started to have some impact and Civil Rights Title Seven was there and they were hiring a lot more blacks in both plants. In fact, the composition of the Andrews plant changed racially to quite an extent between the time the ILG had the election and bargaining rights and strikes, and the time when we came down. There were a lot more white workers percentage wise in Andrews than by 1971.