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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, July 16, 1974. Interview E-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Trying to establish strong locals for the TWUA in Greensboro's Cone Mills

Hoyman talks about his work with Cone Mills in Greensboro, North Carolina, during the 1950s after he was permanently transferred to the South to work for the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA). Hoyman discusses how the Cone Mills presented an especially hard sell for the TWUA and that they were never able to build "a real militant group" at Cone Mills. He ruminates about some of the reasons it may have been difficult for them to build a decisive base of support in those particular mills.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Scott Hoyman, July 16, 1974. Interview E-0010. 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:
So, were you a business agent from '54 to '60?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
No, I guess you would call that, I would call that organizing, you know, in the elections, and then when we won the elections, then I started doing service work. And I didn't know anything about service work and Julius Fry broke me in. After the split, Fry came up from Alabama to North Carolina, he was going to replace part of the vacuum. And he did, he settled in Greensboro and he was servicing these locals and I was helping in Erwin and he was breaking me in on some of these locals. That went from all of '53 and then in mid-'54, we started the Cone project. I moved to Greensboro, Larry Rogan was in charge. I was sort of the second guy on the spot. There was an old guy named Kelly, and that took about six or seven months and …
BILL FINGER:
And they came back?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yes, they all voted to come back. It was a fairly big operation. We had six plants voting on the same day, involving about four or five thousand people at that time. In three plants in Greensboro and they were scattered around in four other small towns in a radius of fifty miles. O.K., and then I worked there on Cone and it was very bad. I was so young that I didn't know how bad it was. But finally, I started to realize that it was pretty bad and it was very depressing and …
BILL FINGER:
Why was that?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
We couldn't get contracts with checkoffs. The high point in dues payments was something like 650 …
BILL FINGER:
Was that out of three thousand?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Out of five, five thousand people. And we went for over a year, I think it was, before we signed the first contract. It's a hell of a decision to sign a contract without a checkoff. We had the general secretary treasurer of the union down, John Chupka. And he was really the number one guy on the strategy. We couldn't break the company and we couldn't strike them.
BILL FINGER:
Because you didn't have strength?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
That's right. In the '51 strike, the Cone workers were terribly weak. And that wasn't the fault of the politics, it was just an inadequate non-militant response.
BILL FINGER:
Did they remember '34 too, what was the reason for …
SCOTT HOYMAN:
I don't know that. They might have even been skipped in '34. You know, some of these places were.
BILL FINGER:
You never got a feeling as to why it was different in Greensboro from Durham or Rockingham or these other places?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
There were a lot of places that were bad in '51. Dan River was very bad and we had more capable staff there. We had quite a crew up there at Danville. The Proximity Plant, which is a weaving plant in the middle of Greensboro (White Oak wasn't organized in '51) but that plant, I understand, had 30 or 40% scabs within a week or two after the strike started. The same thing happened, I think, in Gibsonville, North Carolina. I don't know about Haw River. And it's unfortunate. And we've never been able to build a real militant group in Cone.
BILL FINGER:
It's still very low?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
Yes, about 5 or 10%. Now, Cone is in a joint board now with Julius, but in 1955, we set up a new joint board I was the manager, I had a business agent. And at different times in that six year period, we had as high as seven or eight staff people. We would come right down to the brink of striking and you wouldn't get enough support. You couldn't get people out. We had one strike that did occur and it was over a work load change and involving a particular group of people.
BILL FINGER:
Does Cone pay a little higher? Is that why people aren't quite as lonely, they aren't as threatened, they have a little bit more?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
No, I think that one reason may be the company. The company has a paternalistic … that's maybe an easy word to use … they have certain standards that they maintain, they may come out of a Jewish tradition and like the Jewish tradition, I don't know. They maintain certain standards, some of which they learn from the Union. And they will do that without being forced to do it.
BILL FINGER:
What do you mean?
SCOTT HOYMAN:
They will do it as a matter of company policy. They think that people should be treated in a certain fashion and they are available.