Violence often unavoidable in climate of extreme abuse
Abuse of workers ranged from employers forcing female employees to "date" them to intimidation to physical attacks. Union pickets used violence only in self-defense.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. 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
- 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
that problem. Not a liking to that way, anyway. (laughter)
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.
So, you think that violence couldn't have been avoided?
- EULA MCGILL:
It was pushed on you. You know that either they were going
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..