Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Collections >> Oral Histories of the American South >> Document Menu
Oral History Interview with John Russell, July 25, 1974. Interview E-0014-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
Audio with Transcript
  • Listen Online with Text Transcript (Requires QuickTime and JavaScript)
  • Transcript Only (59 p.)
  • HTML file
  • XML/TEI source file
  • Download Complete Audio File (MP3 format / ca. 144 MB, 01:18:50)
  • MP3
  • Abstract
    John Russell was an organizer for the Fur and Leather Workers Union during the 1940s and 1950s. A member of the executive board during those years, Russell describes the events leading to the Fur and Leather Workers' merger with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union in 1955. Russell begins the interview by describing the Fur and Leather Workers heritage of radical politics and their strong southern presence, particularly in the mountain region of North Carolina and Tennessee. Russell discusses the Fur and Leather Workers' success in organizing strong locals throughout this region, including the Laundry Workers Strike of 1947 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Although that strike ultimately failed, Russell uses the event as a lens for understanding the strategies and tactics of the Fur and Leather Workers and to describe the strong support base they had. Throughout the interview, Russell focuses on the progressive thinking of the Fur and Leather Workers and argues that they had a strong vision for trade unionization. As a result, they supported Progressive presidential candidate Henry Wallace in 1948 while the mainstream labor movement loaned their support to Harry S. Truman. Because of their progressive politics (and their association with the Communist Party), Russell explains how the Fur and Leather Workers were increasingly prone to red-baiting by the late 1940s and early 1950s. Because of this, Russell argues that the executive board ultimately determined to fall in line with the mainstream movement by merging with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters (and by proxy the AFL-CIO) because they believed they could make a stronger impact by working within the movement rather than outside of it. In describing how the merger came to fruition, Russell focuses on the roles of various leaders of the Fur and Leather Workers, including Ben Gold, Abe Fineglass, and Irving Potash. Finally, Russell briefly discusses the aftermath of the merger and how AFL-CIO leaders like George Meany and Patrick Gorman affected the progressive approach of the former Fur and Leather Workers.
    Excerpts
  • Fur and Leather Workers Union as a progressive organization
  • Progressive outlook of the Fur and Leather Workers Union
  • Laundry workers' strike in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1947
  • Henry Wallace, Harry Truman, and the labor movement
  • Events leading to the merger of the Fur and Leather Workers Union with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters
  • Signing an anti-Communist affidavit upon the merger of the Fur and Leather Workers with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters
  • Aftermath of the merger of the Fur and Leather Workers Union with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Trade-unions--Southern States
  • Trade-unions--Officials and employees--Southern States--Education
  • Amalgamated Meat Cutters
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.