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Oral History Interview with John Russell, July 19, 1975. Interview E-0014-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    John Russell was an organizer and executive board member of the Fur and Leather Workers Union before it merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union in 1955. Russell begins the interview by briefly describing the merger of those two labor organizations, discussing both the limitations and opportunities the merger posed for radical labor activists. Because of Amalgamated's association with the AFL-CIO, Russell explains how former Fur and Leather Workers had to temper their progressive approach to trade unionization and their adherence to radical politics. At the same time, however, the merger broadened their access to workers and allowed them a wider jurisdiction within the movement. He goes on to describe his work as an international representative for Amalgamated, focusing primarily on his work in North Carolina. In describing how he helped to organize a number of locals for poultry workers throughout the state, Russell explains important tactics such as negotiations and strikes as tools of the labor movement. In addition, Russell charts important changes within the movement and discusses such factors as the impact of the civil rights movement, the relationship between labor and anti-war activism during the Vietnam War, and the shift from production to service workers as the primary base of support for organization. Finally, he offers his thoughts on the relationship between politics and labor, emphasizing his belief that the electoral system was deeply flawed and limiting in terms of offering workers power.
    Excerpts
  • Limits and opportunities with the merger of the Fur and Leather Workers and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters
  • Organizing North Carolina poultry workers under Amalgamated Meat Cutters
  • Successes and failures in organizing workers for Amalgamated
  • Factors of successful negotiation in labor organization
  • Impact of the civil rights movement on labor organization
  • Role of the electoral political system in labor organization
  • Shift from production to service workers as base for labor organization
  • 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
  • Women in trade-unions--Southern States
  • Trade-unions--African American membership
  • 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.