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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Factory workers strike without union involvement

Gilbert remembers that unions never made it inside Conover Furniture, but that workers did stage sit-down strikes, especially once the Depression put them under significant economic strain. It sounds like these strikes rarely, if ever, lasted more than a day.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. 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

PATTY DILLEY:
Did any of the workers over there at Conover Furniture get together and decide how much work could be done? Like just go to Mr. Brady and say, "Well, you're whipping us too hard, and we think we can get this much done"?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, not much.
MRS. GILBERT:
You mean like going on strike.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I guess so. Did they ever have any strikes?
FRANK GILBERT:
We went on strike a couple times. But it never did do much good, because we didn't belong to any union. There's no use of striking if you don't belong to a union.
MRS. GILBERT:
I think this place up here, Charlie Bost, now he's just one of the finest. Now every Christmas, ever since Frank's worked up there, every year he comes down here with a bushel of beautiful oranges. He's never stopped. Like Santy Claus, every Christmas. And he used to give us a little something along with it, but he don't anymore. [Laughter] And the nicest thing he ever done, he borrowed one of my sons when they had a father-son banquet. And it made me feel so good that he wanted Don.
PATTY DILLEY:
He borrowed one of your sons to be his son?
FRANK GILBERT:
He didn't have any.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's sorta nice. That's neat.
MRS. GILBERT:
But he had a daughter.
PATTY DILLEY:
It sounds like he was a good person to work for. Was it the whole plant that had these little strikes, or was it just one part of the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was all of them.
PATTY DILLEY:
And would they sit down? I wanted to find out more about that.
FRANK GILBERT:
Just sit down and didn't go back to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
So they didn't have apicket line or anything.
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
They just sat down inside the factory. People talk about, workers in North Carolina don't ever do anything like that. But I've found it happens quite a bit. It's just never a big thing, as it is up north, or out of proportion and such as it is up there. But how long would the strikes last?
FRANK GILBERT:
Sometimes they'd last all day. I don't think they ever had but three when I worked there. That was all after that Depression come on. Before, we all had pretty good work. We didn't make much, but it didn't cost as much to live like it does now. You could live pretty good. But then after that Depression come on, a lot of people had a hard time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there any special event that would cause one of these strikes to happen?
FRANK GILBERT:
Did I tell you about that one, where they give us a raise?
PATTY DILLEY:
I think you mentioned a little bit. Maybe you could talk more about that.
FRANK GILBERT:
There was four men, the men that was making the most; they raised them two cents an hour. The rest of us, they give us a half-a-cent-an-hour raise. Now that's only a nickel a day, working ten hours; that didn't amount to much. It was the thought of the thing what made them mad.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I guess they were mad. So they had a strike over that?
FRANK GILBERT:
They had a strike over that. That's the time I got fired.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I remember you telling me that. Did Mr. Brady fire a lot of people over that?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, he didn't fire too many.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many of the workers in the plant went on strike? Was it almost all of them?
FRANK GILBERT:
All of them but those four men, as far as I know.