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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Oscar Dearmont Baker, June 1977. Interview H-0110. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Benefits of Trendline and thoughts on unionization

Baker describes briefly his work in the furniture at Trendline. In particular, Baker describes efforts to unionize at Trendline and the failure of those efforts. Baker voted against unionization because he believed that the company gave the workers good benefits and wages and that a union was unnecessary. He contrasts his experiences with Trendline, namely the fact that he eventually received a pension, to that of his brother who worked at Conover Furniture for the duration of his career and never received a pension. Baker does not cite a specific date for his tenure at Trendline, but does mention that the benefits got better during the early 1960s under the Kennedy administration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Oscar Dearmont Baker, June 1977. Interview H-0110. 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

Did Trendline give you some kind of a pension?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Yes, I draw it; I do now.
PATTY DILLEY:
You draw the pension.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
You get a monthly check, but that comes from… They had insurance with Meade Corporation in Chicago, and mine was paid up, so they don't pay that. They had already had that paid up. So I get that from Meade's out at Chicago. In other words, it don't come through Trendline, because it's already in there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you ever remember, in all the different places you worked (but I guess particularly the furniture industry), any union people coming in or
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Oh, yes, they tried about every year. But they'd get defeated.
PATTY DILLEY:
What period was this in?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
They tried it at Trendline, but they got defeated.
PATTY DILLEY:
Every time they tried?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Every time they would try it, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did the people at the plant think about unions?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
It would be more against it than there were for it, much more.
PATTY DILLEY:
So did they have people that came in from the outside?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Oh, yes. Them's the ones that would do it.
PATTY DILLEY:
The union organizers.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Yes, right.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were they from up North, or were they from the South?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
I imagine they were.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there any violence over there?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
No. It just went over smoothly. If you didn't know it was going on, you wouldn't even know it. You see, they had boxes up, and it had just a little hole in there, and you could mark your ballot and put it in that box. And it had a lock on it. And then that evening, they'd come down from the office and open it and take them up there and count them. So you didn't know how I voted, and I didn't know how you voted, unless you'd tell. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you vote for the union?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
No, I didn't.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did the people in the unions want to move the union in?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
They just try to fight you, but the trend over there was, they have just about as good a benefits as you would have got out of the union anyway. And so there wasn't no need to fool with it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think Trendline was better in benefits than some of the other furniture plants around, or were they about the same?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Some of them other plants didn't have all that like you've got it now. It's more modern now. And I would say they was the best one, yes. All these later years, why, the later it's got, the better these benefits are now. Now most of them has it now.
PATTY DILLEY:
But Trendline was one of the first ones.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Oh, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did Conover Furniture? The Broyhill plant didn't have any?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
They didn't have it then, no. Not then.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was wondering, because your brother said he didn't get any kind of a pension or anything from the company.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
No, they didn't have it then.
PATTY DILLEY:
But probably by then they had it at Trendline.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
That came in under President Kennedy's administration, I think. That's when it got a little stronger. But they were well equipped over here, as far as that benefits go.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why do you think your brother kept working? He worked so long for Conover Furniture. Why do you think he kept working that long when he might have been able to make more other places?
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
He had a big family, and he was at home, the only thing I can figure it out. And he just didn't want to venture out anymore.
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess so. It was a security job.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
And he was good on it. He could go in there and fire that boiler, and it wouldn't half be as hard as… But you go in there, it would just work the stew out of you. But he just knew what to do. And I know he was underpaid. In a job like that now, why, he'd double the price that he was getting then.
PATTY DILLEY:
You were in a much better position to shop around for a job than he was.
OSCAR DEARMONT BAKER:
Oh, yes, I wasn't tied up like he was. He had a big family. He had to work somewhere.