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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Failed attempt at organization at a textile mill in the late 1930s

Eula and Vernon Durham remember a failed attempt at organization in their textile mill in the late 1930s. They and most of their fellow employees feared losing their independence to a union and resisted union members' efforts to recruit them. They do not remember a great deal about their encounter with unionization, but this passage offers a glance at the hostility that union organizers met in their efforts to set up shop in southern mills.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. 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

JIM LELOUDIS:
Was 1936 or 37 the time they had the meeting at the school?
VERNON DURHAM:
About '37, weren't it?
JIM LELOUDIS:
Were there any workers from the mill who were involved in the organizational effort?
VERNON DURHAM:
Yeah, there was a few, but …
EULA DURHAM:
Not many.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How was that meeting set up?
VERNON DURHAM:
I don't know who started it.
EULA DURHAM:
I don't know either, 'cause I didn't go. Didn't want to give up my freedom for a union then.
ARCHIE DURHAM:
It was exactly the opposite.
VERNON DURHAM:
They never did go through there, never did go. They still don't belong to no union down there.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you feel about it?
VERNON DURHAM:
I wasn't never boss man then; I was just a regular hand. I just went with the crowd. I just go along with the crowd up there. I don't know what all they—I don't even remember who they were—the leaders were, that started it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What did you think about it?
EULA DURHAM:
Why, I didn't… They come in there and told me to come on and I said, "I'll not do it. I can go outdoors when I get ready and come in when I please and I ain't paying that union nothing." Several got mad about it. I didn't care.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did a lot of people feel that way?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah. The biggest majority of them.
ARCHIE DURHAM:
They didn't really understand it, did they, Mama? They didn't understand what the union was all about.
EULA DURHAM:
Well, they had a bunch of dumbheads trying to tell you. The union's a good thing if you had somebody, you know—but the ones that come over here messing with it from Pittsboro, they had just started in to that union and they didn't know what they was doing.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What did they tell you when they tried to get you to come in?
EULA DURHAM:
Lord, I don't know. They had the biggest rigamarole, that you could do this, and that you couldn't get fired, that the union would stand by you, and they'd do this—you ain't never heard such a meeting.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did John London react to that?
EULA DURHAM:
He didn't like it at all.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did he ever say anything to you about it?
EULA DURHAM:
He didn't say nothing to me about it. I know he didn't like it. He run them away from there one time.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Some of the organizers?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, They come down there and set out down there. He come in there one day at dinner—he run them away.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did he ever say anything to the employees about it?
EULA DURHAM:
Not that I know of.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did the superintendent and the foremen react?
VERNON DURHAM:
My uncle, Edgar Moore was superintendent then. My brother he was a foreman, a supervisor on the second shift. My daddy he was a foreman in the spinning room. They didn't go along with it. They didn't go along with the union at all.