Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, Fall 1973. Interview E-0009. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Money and number of strikers crucial to strike success

Hoyman discusses how money and the number of people available to (or willing) to strike are crucial factors in the success of a strike. Focusing specifically on the Oneita Knitting Mill strikes of 1973, and other related strikes the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) helped to organize in the 1960s and 1970s, Hoyman discusses how these factors operate together and how they can make or break a strike.

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

DAN McCURRY:
I was very impressed with how Benton talked about when the strike was going on, but what other ways could he have run the strike? What other decisions could have been made?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Well, it's exactly like any kind of a contest. You are only going to have so many dollars coming in. That's number one. Number two, really number one, you've only got so many strikers. This is the scarcest resource in a strike. You can never increase the number of strikers. The only way that you are going to have more strikers is if some scabs see the light and come back out of the plant after they are hired and you agree to let them join the strike. Now, that's a decision you've got to be careful on. So, we only had a limited number of strikers, and we only had a limited number of dollars. And the question is, "How do you put these things together?" And you've only got a limited number of time. The strike can't last forever. You win or lose on the last day, you don't win or lose on any other day. So, it's a question of, it might be an endurance contest, it might be like a war, like a race, a long, long race and you've got to husband your resources and at the same time, you have to maintain militant posture and you have to do what you can to upset whatever plans the company may have toward resuming production or selling their product, or whatever. And the hardest group of people to put together in a strike is a newly organized group, because they don't trust each other. There aren't any interconnections. The only thing they've gone through is an organizing campaign and in an organizing campaing, although you may get fired, you win it by a secret ballot. Now, if nobody knows who you are for, it doesn't take an awful lot of courage, although it seems to in some instances, to mark a secret ballot, if you really believe that it is secret. But in a strike, oh boy. It is an entirely different thing. Your whole job future, the community relations and your family, you know, it's all up for grabs. It's a big risk for the individual. Now, in this kind of strike, for example, where you shut down Chrysler, you know, nobody expects Chrysler to go out of business or to decertify the UAW, it would be inconcievable. Like the 50th state leaving, disappearing. Everybody knows what to expect. So, it's not like a strike where you are bargaining by striking for more or less money or more or less compulsive overtime. This is a win or lose, do or die, be there or disappear. It's literally a strike for the survival for establishment of the union. So, you have to balance … the whole issue of violence. That's probably the biggest choice that we made. And violence is a difficult commodity. You know, the union doesn't say, "We're going to have a violent strike." They'd be crazy. But there may be individuals on strike whose nature is to pursue this kind of an answer when confronted by a problem. The guy who on Saturday night has a few beers and if you disagree with him, well then, part of the recreation is to go outside and settle it, you know. It's kind of a sport.
DAN McCURRY:
and I talked about that.
SCOTT HOYMAN:
And we have people like that in any group. There are people like that on the company side, there are people like that among the scabs. And so, the question is what to do about it and what kind of policies you advocate and what you don't and what you prohibit and what you don't talk about or say anything about and so there are all kinds of levels. And most things that happen, you don't know ahead of time. You hear a vague report, and maybe something happened, you know. So, this is a big problem and in long strikes, in 1973 in a state that has very little labor organization and is unfriendly to organized labor, it is a very difficult thing to allow violence to develop even without a policy of, any policy of promoting it, but to allow it to develop and still avoid being penalized possibly in many different ways. So, that was another sequence, and Benton was responsible for carrying out that kind of policy and Bush and any staff rep in there, Washington, Pope and then the committee. You've got to depend on the committee people to agree. You've got to convince them of what strategy you are going to follow and you've got to make it believable and you hope that they will agree and will wholeheartedly cooperate. If they don't, you are in trouble.