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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, December 12, 1974. Interview G-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Worker first, citizen second

The focus of labor organizations has changed over time from working conditions to community and political involvement. Nevertheless, McGill's primary identity is that of a worker.

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

LEWIS LIPSITZ 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 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 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.