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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carrie Lee Gerringer, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions between workers and strategies for overproduction

Gerringer talks about how they were paid for overproduction in the Bynum, North Carolina, textile mills. She says that although the workers never openly discussed how they would work harder and faster in over to earn extra wages for overproduction, she believes it was quite common. In describing how this process worked, she reveals interesting workplace tensions in the textile mills between spinners and doffers. Although the doffers sometimes passed along bobbins that were only half-full in order to save themselves time, the spinners rarely complained to the bosses because doing so might mean they regularly ended up with less yarn to spin, should the doffers decide to retaliate. Her comments reveal dynamic workplace tensions and strategies.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carrie Lee Gerringer, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0077. 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

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Some people have talked about working on production. I don't really understand that.
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Well, I guess they pay you a certain amount, but they want you to get a certain production to get that amount. I remember when we had to do that.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did they pay you more if you . . .
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Made more than production? Oh, yes.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
How did that work?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Well, I don't know. They just figured up. They come and got your yarn off of your winder that you done wound. They'd weigh it, and if you made over production, they'd pay you for that. But if you don't get nothing but production, you just get the minimum wage.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did people really try and make more?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Oh, yes. Lord, I've made many a dollar over production.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Were there ever competitions between people trying to make more than the other person?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Oh, I guess there was, but we didn't pay no attention to it. I wouldn't say there was or wasn't-I don't even know-but I have an idea there was. In their mind or heart they probably did, you know, think about it, whether they said it or not. [Laughter]
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did how much you were able to produce depend on . . .
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Oh, yes, it was according to how much yarn you had, to come from the spinning room out there. Sometimes you'd have to wait on it, and that would knock you out an awful lot. But II always got over production, not a whole lot but enough to keep ahead.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did you ever go to people in the spinning room and complain about . . .
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Oh, no, shoot, I wouldn't. If I got a bad bobbin, I wound it and kept my mouth shut. You just as well do; it don't do no good. I found that out a long time ago. [Laughter]
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
How's that?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
If you complained, sometime they'd only get worse, you know. Just to spite, I have an idea. I won't say that they did it for spite, but I always figured that was it. So I learnt to not say nothing, because you get along better if you don't.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Who did people complain to?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Sometimes they'd complain to the bossman, you know, about them making a sorry bobbin. They'd want to go home. Back then, you know, when you got up, you could go home. But you can't do that now. But back then you could; the doffers could, like my husband. And sometimes they would doff them, lacked that much of being full, and that would hinder a winder, because she didn't have but half a bobbin, you see. If he'd let it get full, it would run and she wouldn't have to do that but just. . . . It would make two times instead of one, just as well say. And the half a bobbin didn't fill up your cone as much as a whole bobbin would. So that was just work over and over and over and over. And at first I have said a few things about it, but I learnt to just take them and [unclear] them.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Was this in Bynum that you complained about . . .
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Yes. They had a few doffers that if they wanted to go home pretty early, they would doff them half full. But if you said anything, the next time they'd give you less, so you just as well keep your mouth shut. [Laughter]