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Title: Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: McGill, Eula, interviewee
Interview conducted by Lipsitz, Lewis
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 84 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-05-19, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0039)
Author: Lewis Lipsitz
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0039)
Author: Eula McGill
Description: 88.5 Mb
Description: 22 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 12, 1974, by Lewis Lipsitz; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974.
Interview G-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
McGill, Eula, interviewee


Interview Participants

    EULA McGILL, interviewee
    LEWIS LIPSITZ, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
This is Thursday, December 12, 1974 and I am talking with Eula McGill of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and we are going to talk about some of her experiences in union organizing. Let me start off with how you got involved in union activity in the first place, why did you get involved in such an uncomfortable thing?
EULA McGILL:
I was involved since I was seven years old. Actually, during World War I, my mother never worked, but she was very . . . she liked anything that she thought was progressive. My father worked at the steel mills and of course, during World War I, there was a lot of organizing going on in the steel mills and the factories. So every time that they would have a union rally, my mother went and that's when I first became conscious of labor unions. I remember asking my father one day, after we came back from a labor rally, of course he had worked that day, and I said, "What is a union?" So, he explained to me in his way, he said, "Now, I'm a union man but where I work doesn't recognize the union. Don't tell anyone that I carry a union card."
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Where was this?
EULA McGILL:
In Gadsden, Alabama. Then of course, when I went to work in the factory, I went to work during school vacation one summer and worked for awhile in the factory, that experience came in handy later when the Depression came and I needed a job, I did have some experience. So, the working conditions, I think that the people at that time, even

Page 2
the ones that had never had any knowledge of unions, felt that there was nothing that they could do that could make things worse for themselves. So, it was like a ray of sunshine when Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed and set in motion the NRA, the National Recovery Act. And in that, the first section in there, gave the workers the right to organize without being discriminated against. So, people took advantage of it.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
That was about what, '34, or something like that?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. People came into the union, you didn't have to do any sales talk, in fact, there were practically no mill organizers, paid organizers as such.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
You were involved in union activities before that, though?
EULA McGILL:
Well, no. Actually I wasn't myself involved because I didn't work in a plant. I lived near a big textile mill during World War I and they had a strike and my next door neighbor was very active in that strike and I was at the time, as I say, around eight or nine years old. I still think today, when I am talking to mothers and fathers in a home and I see a small child sitting and listening, I remember myself and I try to talk to that child as well as to the mother and father. I know that that's when I first got interested, never thinking that I would ever work in a factory.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Right. Was it a risky business to become a union supporter or a union organizer in those days?
EULA McGILL:
Very risky because at that time, as I said, they didn't have . . . as I remember, there were only two paid organizers on the Textile staff, that's the old United Textile Workers. I don't mean "old," but since we have . . . .
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
The former one.

Page 3
EULA McGILL:
Yes. The United Textile Workers, and they had the whole state of Alabama. Most of the people who were involved and carrying the brunt of it were the workers in the plant who were what we would call volunteer organizers, of which I was one. Those people were harassed in their homes by the people that were anti-union that worked with them, the police, because in Gadsden, Alabama a lot of people know the history of the struggles of the workers there to organize, in the Goodyear mills and in the Republic Steel mills and in the Dwight Manfacturing Company, the big textile mill. So many people who were active in the organizing campaign, the workers who were in the plant and on the volunteer organizing committee and we called them volunteer organizers, were beaten up, taken out and flogged and it was very risky.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Well, why did people do it? Why did you do it?
EULA McGILL:
Why I did it?
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Why did you take the risk? Why not just go along, you know what I mean?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you see, in a way, you felt that . . . well, my mother said to me when I first joined the organizing committee in the plant in which I worked, and I think that it sums it up as to how all of us felt. My sister, who had it a little better than me, her husband was a union man in plaster and making pretty good money at the time and we were discussing the union at home one night and of course, my father was out of work because of the Depression and I was the only one having a steady paycheck coming in, although it wasn't but three or four dollars a week, it was the only money that we counted on every week. We were sitting at the table talking and I said, "I'm going to join the organizing committee." My sister said, "You'll get fired." My mother

Page 4
said, "Well, what does it matter if she does get fired? She is eating and sleeping, that's all she's doing and she's going to eat and sleep some way." So, we felt that there was no place to go but up and that was the attitude that I had and that was the attitude that I think most of the people that worked with me had. Of course, I didn't last very long, I got discharged and after the general textile strike, [unknown] which most of the people that came out on strike lost, we did form some good local unions, some of them are still in existence today in Alabama. Most of us, however, had to go back without a contract. Then I joined the Woman's Trade Union League.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Let me stop you for a moment and ask you a related question before we get away from the question of why we got involved in union activities. Sometimes people talk about the . . . you said that there were bread and butter questions involved in it and that the unions could only help you in these matters. How about issues like matters of principle, say working conditions and child labor? What was it like in the textile industry at that time?
EULA McGILL:
Well, in the textile industry, most of it was not only that . . . sure, we needed more money, of course, when we had the NRA, it gave us forty cents an hour, which was a big increase. When you talk about bringing people from six dollars a week to twelve dollars a week and where they have been working sixty hours a week for six dollars a week, and I am not kidding you, that was about the wages. To go to forty hours for twelve dollars a week, it was a big jump, a very big jump.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Sure.
EULA McGILL:
Most people lived in company owned houses, which I fortunately didn't live in, but most people did live in company owned

Page 5
houses, they were told who to have in that house. It had a lot to do with having a little personal freedom, too, in your off work hours to do as you pleased. Most of them had company doctors, which you paid out of your paycheck whether you ever used him or not. NRA changed that and of course, when it proved unconstitutional, we were right back more or less where we started. We never had to go back to the old wages, I think that the companies even saw that people just wouldn't stand for that. I think that in the long run, it even helped the industry, I think it stimulated them to have more money. It didn't do what they always say, I even think now that everytime you talk about the minimum wage, about raising it, the companies always talk about having to pay more and will have to close. It has never proved a fact. Those companies who don't operate efficiently or who are just bad managers are just not going to survive at any rate of pay, I think. So, the minimum wage law has not proved that it will run companies out of business, companies who operate efficiently. But certainly personal freedom had a lot to do with it as well as money.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
That was what I was getting at really.
EULA McGILL:
And the way that people were treated in the plants, I hate to talk about it sometimes. People wouldn't believe it today, but I knew bosses that if they took a notion that they wanted to date a girl, she either dated them or lost her job. I know personally of a man who worked in a steel mill and his wife dated the boss. You might say that that man was weak, but he had a family to feed. He talked with me quite freely about it. Those things went on, you just didn't dare to cross the boss if he took a liking to you. I was always fortunate in that I wasn't the type that they took a liking to. [Laughter] I never had

Page 6
that problem. Not a liking to that way, anyway. [Laughter]
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
How about violence? Was there much violence in those early struggles?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes. Even at our union meetings, we would have people come in for the purpose of breaking them up. We would try to avoid having fights in our union hall because we knew that it would hurt the reputation of the union and that the union would always get the blame. "Look at that brawl they have in the union." We tried to avoid it, sometimes we couldn't avoid it. We would have them come into our meetings for the purpose of breaking them up. These workers who, you couldn't call them thugs, I guess, but they were people who thought that they were protecting their jobs, I imagine, but they were sent there by the boss for that purpose. I was asked one time by my boss, he didn't know how I felt at that time about the union, it was just getting started, and he came to me. I didn't live near the plant that I worked in because I lived on the other side of town, my father being a steel worker and I traveled across town by streetcar. So, I didn't come in contact, except at work, with the people that I worked with because we lived in a different area. And he came to me and told me that there was going to be a union meeting at such and such a time and asked me if I would go and find out what was going on and come back and tell him. Well, I didn't say anything to him. I was going to the meeting anyway, I knew that I was not going to come back and tell him what was going on. I know that people were sent for that very reason. Some people will sometimes spy on their fellow workers and think that puts them up a little notch higher with the boss.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
So, you think that violence couldn't have been avoided?
EULA McGILL:
It was pushed on you. You know that either they were going

Page 7
to beat you up or you fought back. So, I was the type of person that tried to fight back. I never, in my whole experience as a union representative or on the picket line as a worker, saw any union picket actually jump on a person without being first attacked. I don't say it never has happened, I say that it never has happened to my knowledge in my presence. Usually they try to run a bunch in with some police or something and they start shoving and the first thing you know, there are licks passed.
[interruption on tape. Portions inaudible] . . . . well, the only thing that I know about Marion. I remember talking to two people that were at the time in the area, who are since dead, Molly and Eddie Johnson, who I met later in Georgia in the middle 30's. They were at that time in and around Marion and that was when I first heard of it. I was never involved in the early days in any organizing in North Carolina, I was confined to Alabama and Georgia.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Of course, there were a lot of early labor struggles, not only in North Carolina, but like the Homestead Steel Strike and the Pullman Strike and all these kinds of things. Did that have much effect on you or on the labor movement, the way that those early struggles were waged? Did it influence your ideas about things?
EULA McGILL:
It influenced me because I always felt that even though we would talk about it, even in the home we would talk about it and my mother and father and myself, as well as the people who worked with me. We always considered back then that if you tried and failed this time, you didn't actually fail, it was a step forward even though you didn't at that time obtain your objective. And that's how we felt about those early struggles. Had it not been for them, we would be back there today, we wouldn't be where we are today. So, that's the attitude that

Page 8
we took, who were firm trade unionists. Nothing could turn us around because we believed that was the only answer for working people.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Did you ever feel like an outsider as a firm trade unionist, that you were the minority? Or, you didn't feel that way, I take it.
EULA McGILL:
Oh, I think that I felt that the people that believed in unions . . . not "believed in," I don't want to say that, but the actual trade unionists, I would say that 99% of the working people believe in the union. They give this illusion sometimes about the way that things happen, but actually believe in it. Some of them don't have the courage to stand and put up the fight, to be ostracized or lose their friends and things like that, but actually believing in the union and believing that that is the thing the workers should do. I have often said this and it has been proven in later years after we got a little stronger and were able to break down some of the opposition of the manufacturors of the company, you remove that resistance and these people are actually free to make a choice, then they will choose the union. Even with its faults, I've said this, nothing is perfect and anything run by people is going to have mistakes, but I don't know any organization that is doing as much, or anything, to uplift the working people and the general public, but a union. It's the only one I know of. We pick up other organizations sometimes that lend us support, but that is the driving force that makes things happen on the scene.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
What about women in those early struggles, what role did they play?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, I think that a lot of people know the history of the Amalgamated [unknown] Workers and those were the first on the picket line. The first strikers were women.

Page 9
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Why is that?
EULA McGILL:
Well, it just so happened that the few people that were in unions in those days were the cutters and the sleeve hangers and the more skilled trades. They wouldn't take in the lesser skills and most of the women were on sewing and things that were less skilled and they weren't accepted in the union, they weren't even offered union membership and they got a little fed up with the way things were going and decided to take a walk and the men joined them. That's how the Amalgamated was formed and I found that like a lot of people say, "You can't get women to stick together," well, that isn't true. You sell a woman and you've got a fighter on your hands. I don't see any difference between a woman and a man when it comes to a cause or when they make up their mind that they believe in something. I don't think that there is any difference in it. I've worked for the most part, well, all of my work has been in industries where the majority of workers were women. The women had to run the unions for the most part. We never looked up to the men. Some women do, they would rather have a man as the president because he is a man, but for the most part, it doesn't happen in our union. It never has.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
What about the problems when you are confronted . . . I don't know if this has ever happened to you but it has happened in the labor movement, when you are confronted with a big power, the National Guard or the police and there you are facing the violence, or some people call the oppression, of the state? Were you ever in that situation?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. But you know, the National Guard, after all, those men that are in the National Guard, most of them are workers. Now, in the early days, in the '30s, it wasn't true. My real only run-in, and I

Page 10
would say when I was involved in a strike, when the National Guard was called out, was in Water Valley, Mississippi. I tried me an experiment and got friendly with the colonel in charge. I can truthfully say that I would go up and talk with him and my purpose was to see if there were any scabs going in and he was friendly with me but he was very strict about keeping us in line. We were, you might say, under seizure from them insofar as the way we had to put our picket lines on and the number of pickets that he said and all that. But he would not let the people who tried to scab go in, they had to park their cars off. In that strike, there were very few people that did scab. The majority stayed out and stayed firm. We didn't have any actually real hostile feelings between those National Guard men and us. We were in a majority, they could see that. He was under his instructions from the governor to carry out the order. And the only confrontation that I really had with him one day, some of the people who had worked began to come down to our union hall and harass the pickets, or the people who were down at the union hall who would stand outside. One day, they got into a fight down there, the girls got tired of them coming down and saying names to them. It was on the sidewalk downtown. They got into a fight. So he told me that I was going to have to keep everybody in the union hall during the lunch period. I laughed at him because it was so ridiculous. I said, "What do you mean, we are abiding your rules as far as picketing and you tell me that my strikers are not even free to stand out on the sidewalk in front of the hall. That is ridiculous." He didn't force me on it, but I think that he was a little bit burned up because of the fight that took place. The girls got away before he got there. That was the only time that we ever had any confrontation with him, with the National Guard. Most of the guys who were there were very friendly.

Page 11
We'd take them coffee and doughnuts up there and pass them out to them while the girls picketed, to the boys that was guarding the factory.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
That's interesting. How about the racial aspect of it? Has that been a problem? I guess it has in the South in the labor movement. Did that create a problem in getting unions organized and what experience have you had with that?
EULA McGILL:
Well, we didn't have too many black people in that the company didn't hire them. Our union has always had in its constitutional by-laws that we didn't discriminate because of race, creed, national origin, religion. But the company didn't hire. I can truthfully say as a trade unionist that in my whole experience, I have never had to attend a segregated meeting. The few blacks who were members of our union came to the same hall. We always saw to it that we met in a place where we did not have to, although the laws in say, Birmingham, Alabama said so. For instance, they had a law there that said you could not meet together, you had to segregate, but we always planned our affairs where we did not have to segregate. By nature and by the times back in the '30s and '40s, black people would just group together and get on one side, usually they did it not because they were asked to, but just naturally. Other unions did have problems in the steel mills because a lot of black people were working there and they were kept at certain jobs and were not allowed to use their seniority. It caused some problems. That had to come with education of the membership. I think that the greatest thing that ever happened was when we were able to see the law passed for fair employment practices.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
That was in about '48 or something.
EULA McGILL:
So many white people actually did not know any black people.

Page 12
Most of us who worked never came in contact with black people. We never had them in our homes as workers, because we did our own housework. Any relationship that we had was just . . . well, we had no relationship you might say, us working people, because we never did come in contact as employers of them and we didn't even really know them. But I lived in a steel village in Gadsden, Alabama. Our house, we lived in a company house, this was when I was growing up and I appreciate it today because my next door neighbors on both sides were Italians, we had Polish people on the street. Right across the street was where the black section started and my mother never, I will say that she made no difference in her neighbors, she had good neighbors even among the blacks and there was no trouble. I spent my growing up years fighting mostly for my "dago" friends, not my black friends because they were good friends and went to school and were harassed and were in a minority.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
When did you come to North Carolina?
EULA McGILL:
I started coming to North Carolina on assignment regularly in 1960 and came up here to Wilmington, North Carolina when we were having an organizing campaign with the Block Shirt Company there.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
What was that all about?
EULA McGILL:
Well, we had a campaign there and we lost the campaign because the company had violated the laws, had flagrantly violated the laws. We had to file charges, what we call an "Eight Five." The board, to try and keep a company from just disregarding and flagrantly violating the law, they made a rule that if a company was found guilty of flagrantly violating the law, if the union had a majority and we could prove that majority was destroyed by these unlawful acts, the company would be ordered

Page 13
to deal with us anyway. We lost the election and it was proven . . . . [portion of the tape completely inaudible. Interference and then volume inaudible for transcription] . . . . tried to throw us out beforehand and they talked. They wouldn't bargain and they would make just enough counter proposals to keep within the ruling.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
What were one or two of the issues?
EULA McGILL:
Well, actually money. Of course, checkoff. That's something that unions always have to deal with. The company will say that they are against the checkoff in principle and this,that and the other. We know right away that that is going to be the hangup.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
That's collection of dues?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. Deduction of dues from the paycheck and they always think that we will not sign the contract without it. They might agree to everything else, not really agreeing, but pretending to agree, knowing that they are going to use that as a stopgap. And that was the way that I think they were acting. Finally they said that they didn't think that we represented a majority anymore. We went into another election and just lost it by seven votes.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Seven votes. Did you see the recent vote here in Kannapolis, Cannon Mills?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Where the union lost again?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
What accounts for those defeats, do you think? I mean, some people say that there is fear involved.
EULA McGILL:
There is fear. Fear is the main thing.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
What are the fears about?

Page 14
EULA McGILL:
Well, fears change. I think that fear is still the main factor that motivates people's voting against the union. I think that the reason for that fear changes as times change. Now, when we joined the union in the '30s, we didn't have much to lose, as my mother said, "I'm just eating and sleeping." And someway or the other, I was going to eat and sleep. I was fortunate, I had a sister and I had hand-me-downs. I never had bought anything for myself. I had no money. My mother made clothes out of whatever she could or I wore my sister's hand-me-downs made over for me. It wasn't for fear of losing the job then, for the most part. It was the fear of being harassed by the police for each little thing, or the company police, being put out of the company house, even the ministers would get in the act and you would go to church and your minister was up talking against the union and those things, I think, were the fear of the people, of being ostracized by the church and being harassed and their children being put upon at school by the children from anti-homes. This went on in the '30s. It spilled out into the schools just like some of the race issues do today.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
How about nowadays, closer to the present? There are still fears, but of a different sort?
EULA McGILL:
I think we are entering a period now of fear for a different reason. Coming through World War II until just a year ago, I would say that it was not the fear of losing that particular job, but the fear of . . . because you could go somewhere and get a job, you weren't blacklisted so badly for union activity . . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 15
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
We were talking about the fears that are still considered by people that are involved in union activity or considering joining a union.
EULA McGILL:
Well, as I said, since World War II and up until recently, people were afraid that "if I get involved in a union here, or even if I work in a union shop, if I ever want to go to work somewhere else, will it be held against me that once I was a union member?" I have had people who tell me this, so many times. Say there are big companies who are expanding and don't resist the union, would rather have a union and feel that they have better cooperation among the employees, there are manufacturers who feel that way. They feel that this is the best way to have cooperation, to know what is really going on in their plant is to have workers that are free to sit down and talk their problems over, really free to talk them over without any reprimand from a foreman or an underling after the big shot gets gone back to wherever he came from. You tell the people that, "Now this company, we have dealt with them for years and we have had them under contract, we have very good relations with them, they don't love us but over the years they have come to tolerate us because of our strength in the industry and they are willing to apply the contract if a majority are willing to join." "Well, I would, but suppose that I want to quit here and go somewhere else where there is not a union and then they will know that I worked here as a union member." It is not as hard to organize without the company's resistance, but it is a problem with that fear, because they just cannot realize that a company will not fire them or take some discriminatory action if they are union members.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Do you think that problem is worse in the South than elsewhere?

Page 16
EULA McGILL:
No, I don't. I have worked in areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio where I heard the same argument. It is true that we have more unions up there because that's where industry was for many years. They got a head start because they had industry . . . I think that some of the most militant union people that I have found have been in the South.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
I guess that that attitude has survived in a way. Do you have any union heroes down here in the South?
EULA McGILL:
A hero?
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Well, you know, people that you have admired and learned from? Maybe that's the wrong word to use.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I have some. I remember very well in the early days people who to me were the leaders of the unions, sometimes they weren't publicized as such. I can remember Van Bitner of the Mineworkers Union and a good old friend of mine who was president of the district mineworkers union in Birmingham, Alabama, William Mitch, who advised me a lot in my early days. These are people who built the unions. You know, a lot of times the people who get big publicity and make the speeches, sure they have their function, but people like Jim Terry . . . I am speaking mostly of people in the Mineworkers Union, because I come out of a mine area and I got a lot of my advice from people in the mine union and the steel workers union. The old Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, it was the forerunner of the United Steel Workers Union. Phil Murray, I thought that he was one of the best and our own Sidney Hillman with Amalgamated, I don't think that there was any greater labor statesman in the country. I admired him so much for many of the things that he has said. I think that he is one of the greatest labor leaders, or labor statesmen, although he never got much publicity. We all love him in the Amalgamated because he was honest and sincere. The thing that I loved

Page 17
about him was that he never said, "I". He always said, "We." He always looked at practical points, he was more practical and didn't think about show. He thought of the members. Jacob S. Potofsky, with our union, Frank Rosenbloom, Hymie Bloomberg. They never got south much because we didn'thave industry. Sometimes they felt like maybe they wouldn't be accepted in the South, but when they began to come and find how warm the people were in our locals that we organized, they came to love the South and most of them enjoyed coming south. People who came down here as organizers, as I said in the early days of the '30s, there weren't any paid organizers. We would get someone who had had union experience, either as a machinist or electrician in the building trades, usually around the plant you had a person who was the plant electrician and he would have been a member of the Electrical Workers and had some union experience. These were our leaders in the'30s. Sometimes we made big mistakes, but we learned. I think that the best way for a person to learn is to do and not have to ask somebody else what to do, but get out and have to think for themselves and do it. That's what we built our union on down here in the South. And of course, as companies got more technical, we would go out and find some people more technical to help us. One thing that the unions have to do is change as the industries change. You have to keep up. If you don't, you are going to be left by the wayside.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Do you think that the situation of the workers has improved much in the last ten or fifteen years, since you came in '60 to North Carolina?
EULA McGILL:
Well, if you are talking about improvements, a lot of people think that money is an improvement. I used to have a lot of arguments with bosses because they felt like the seniority, if a person had been on

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the job and had seniority, it had to be a higher paying job. Well, I never felt like a person that had seniority and wanted to choose a job, it didn't necessarily have to carry higher pay. If he felt like it was a better job that suited him better or it might give him a little knowledge on that job to step on to something else, I wouldn't always look at the monetary value as much as I do other things. I ask myself that question sometimes because I see things changing, companies' change their attitudes. Sometimes workers are mistreated without knowing that they are being mistreated, because they are now aware of what is going on, they are not aware of how they can go about changing conditions that they don't like. In a non-union shop , sure the boss lets them come in and sit down and talk with him and you can bet your life that if a union organizer comes around and passes out a leaflet, there will be an open door policy established right afterwards and he will sit down and talk with them. But you let the union die down and let the union representative leave, and pretty soon they will go right back to their old way of doing things, they won't have time to talk with you. So, to me and I say this, I would rather work as a union member in a shop for less pay with the right to know that I can take up a grievance and not be reprimanded later or have it held against me. Without a union, the worker is taking his job in his hands. If the boss chooses to listen to him and if he happens to need that worker badly enough, he may listen to him and may adjust his problems. It all hinges in a non-union plant as to how badly the worker is needed at the time. . . [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
[interruption. Tape turned off and then on again. Portions of interview inaudible]What do you see sort of as the future of the labor movement and the major problems that are around that need to be dealt with? Let's say particularly in the South, feel free to talk about whatever you want.

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EULA McGILL:
Well, I think that there is too much apathy, not only in the labor movement, but in life itself. You know, I saw a motto and I don't know where I saw it, but it impressed me, it was just written down and it said, "Some people make things happen. Some people watch them happen. Some people wonder what happens." [Laughter] That impressed me because I have always felt like everything that happens, something had to make it happen. Nothing just goes along by itself, you go forward or backward. I am concerned that too many people, it has come to them too easy, without the workers actually participating. Times have been good, you go and ask the boss for a raise and you got it. You know, we have had it fairly good. I have worried about the time that the union might not be able to get an increase or make any gains in the contract. I hope that our members are prepared for it, because it may come upon us, we don't know. I think that we have more or less not tried to . . . it's not so much that the young people haven't listened to us as that we haven't tried to talk to them. Work patterns are changing, work is changing. What is work? Most people think that working is when you've got to go out here and physically work. More and more in this country, the work is changing and I don't think the people really realize that.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
Is that happening also even among the . . . in your industry?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I think that our business has been so good and everything so lovely that the people have just taken the union as a matter of course, they haven't worked at it. The union is doing all right.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
So, it begins to lose its meaning?
EULA McGILL:
Well, not really. It is going to come anyway, the president of the local or the officers of the local, they are going to take care of that, so they just let it run. Then too, turnover, labor turnover. We have had a very unstable work force in the garment trade and I talk to other

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people and they say that it has happened there. Consequently, you don't have the same people to work with, so you don't have the same educational process in your union that we had in the early days. We had the same workers. We go there today to organize, to talk to them about the union and we didn't make it, but we would come back a year later and there would practically the same people in that shop. That's not true anymore. If you come back, you are lucky if there are 50% of the same people still in the shop. You've got to start over with your educational process of explaining to them.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
The people move and go elsewhere?
EULA McGILL:
That's right and change jobs. And those people that go somewhere else, the first thing you know, they're back in this job and the work force has been unstable.
LEWIS LIPSITZ:
[Interruption. Tape turned off and then on again. Portions of interview inaudible] Are there any conclusions that you have come to after working in the union movement about unions or the labor struggle, your own summing up of things?
EULA McGILL:
Well, when I first began working in the union organization, we stuck to working conditions, we never got outside in any politics and into the community. That all changed when we formed the CIO, we have become more conscious of the community and feel that we should play a part in the community and in other activities. We should make the union a family affair. I think that labor unions should play a greater role in all phases of life and activity. I think that we as a labor movement have not done the job of public relations that we could have done and should have done. So many times, the things that unions do, like helping colleges, giving to different charity organizations or relief when there

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are disasters, it is never known outside of the labor movement or the members themselves. So many people think that all the union does is collect its dues and the few heads of the union live high on them. Well, there is nothing further from the truth. This dues money is used for the welfare of the members for the most part, to protect their jobs, to give them legal advice and there are not the tremendously high salaries that people think there are, certainly not in my union. And as I say, I think that is what labor has to do, they have to become . . . so many times, people say, "Well, I've got my union . . . It doesn't matter over there with this other person, it's none of their business. As long as my members are happy, what do I care." Well, you've got to care about what the next fellow thinks about your union, you've got to promote your union and believe in your union. As I have often told the members in the shop, it is just human nature for people to complain when they've got a grievance, but when that grievance gets settled, they don't get back in that car with the people they may ride to work with and who may not be members of the union and say, "The union settled my complaint today 90% or 100% and I've got a good union." Too many times, the members themselves hurt their own unions unintentionally because they complain when they have problems, but then when that problem is settled satisfactorily, they fail to talk about it. Well, by the same token the unions, when we are in trouble and out on strike or these things happen, naturally it is publicized. It's big news, but when the unions send food into areas where you have floods and things of that nature, it generally comes out in the union publication. And that's awful. I think that the newspapers would do a better job for us if we would let them, I think. Of course, they are

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primarily in business and will side with business because that is where their money comes from and they don't want to step on the toes of the business community, but some of it is our fault, I think. And I think that we should do more. I'm proud and I've never been ashamed to be a member of the union. I feel today as I did then, I am a shirt worker first, I do not feel like I am a professional organizer. I am just a representative of our membership. I am trying to further the union because every non-union shop, unorganized, is a threat to our good conditions in the union shops.
END OF INTERVIEW