Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brooks, October 2, 1974. Interview E-0058. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Challenges to the results of the first food workers' strike at UNC

Brooks explains how she thought that things had been settled after the first food workers' strike, but after the SAGA food company took over food services at UNC, working conditions again took a turn for the worse. Although pay was not tampered with, SAGA laid off workers and reneged on the establishment of job descriptions. Because she had been one of the leaders of the first strike, the new SAGA employers tried to rein her in, preventing her from speaking to students when she was working and changing her schedule.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brooks, October 2, 1974. Interview E-0058. 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

BEVERLY JONES:
Did you foresee another strike, after the first strike was over?
MS. ELIZABETH BROOKS:
Well, after the first strike was over, I didn't. I thought things were just going to work out dandy, and soon after SAGA food company came in, I almost knew there would be another strike. Didn't know it was going to be as early as it was (laughs). But I did know that there would be a strike, because when they came in, they came in laying off people. Just came in making a wipe-out. And again, we were back in the similar situation. No Job descriptions, no job titles, you just do whatever's to be done. Everybody's got to be working at all times. And it was just very much the same. The only difference that I see was the pay raise. We didn't really, weren't that concerned about the pay raise during the second strike. I was the working conditions. And the firing of the employees.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did you know that an independent food service would be coming in. Did you know that before they came in, after the strike was ended? Did you have any idea during or before the strike that somebody, the administration would sell out to an independent food corporation?
MS. ELIZABETH BROOKS:
No, we didn't. When we went on strike against the University we had no idea that another company would come in and take over. We heard this during the last meetings we had with the University, that there were chances that they would sell out to another company. But it didn't really bother us, because we just didn't feel like anyone else would come in and do the things that they had done. And we thought, "We always do good work," and we thought that's what anybody was looking for. And we really wasn't concerned about it too much.
BEVERLY JONES:
Do you think your participation in the first strike was ever used against you? Under SAGA?
MS. ELIZABETH BROOKS:
Yeah. Very much. They had their eyes on me when they came there. On Mary Smith. And they did not allow me to open my mouth. (laughs) Different students would come in, and would question, "How's it going?", you know, "Are you having any problems with this company?" And they definitely didn't allow me-"I don't want you talking to no body," on my time." And so he meant that. "I am not going to have it." So I did have an hour for lunch, and I just went right across to the Student Union and I talked for the whole hour. (laughs) And the next day would be a whole right up in the paper. (laughing). And he would have"I am not going to tolerate this. . . I am simply not going to tolerate this." And so I said to him, "At least I didn't lie, I told the truth, you know." And so they really put the pressure on me. They shifted me around from place to place. They changed my schedule; I had been working the second shift because it benefited my family the best, and they knew this. They had ways of finding out, you know.