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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Little, December 14, 1979. Interview H-0132. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The need for labor forces glove factory owners to treat workers well

Little comments on some of the dynamics of the glove-making labor market. Labor shortages and the high cost of training give experienced workers leverage to demand good treatment from employers like Little. Little responds in kind, offering economic benefits and seeking to forge positive personal relationships with his employees.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Little, December 14, 1979. Interview H-0132. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you find that certain kinds of people make better workers than others? When you used to be in charge of hiring, how would you decide who to hire and who not to hire?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, you just more or less have to try out. You've got some things to go by. If you can get their grades, that's a good thing to go by, but that's hard . You make mistakes in hiring people. No question about it. A lot of it's trial and error. But you can soon learn whether anybody is going to make anything or not, whether they take any pride in their work. It's like anything else. It's expensive to train people to make gloves. It's the most expensive industry to train that I know of, unless you're going to educate somebody to be an electrical engineer or something like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How much does it cost to train somebody?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, you just figure the minimum wage for from eight months to a year and a half.
JACQUELYN HALL:
During that time, can people …
ARTHUR LITTLE:
During that time, they're not making enough… What we call their makeup pay will be terrible, between what the minimum wage is and what their production is. We figure it costs right close to $4,000 to train an operator, on the average. Now I've got operators out here I wouldn't take $5,000 for.
JACQUELYN HALL:
People that have been with you a long time?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Yes. Even if they've not been with me but two years, and they're good operators. Valuable, they're valuable. And they know it, too. Oh, I tell you, they can boss you if they want to. They know it. Oh, and step out here and go to the competitor, and just go to work the next morning. Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is there a labor shortage?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So they're always looking for …
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Here in Catawba County, I don't know what it is now, but it has been less than one percent already, unemployed. Whenever you get that low, why, you're not finding anybody unemployed that wants to work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you keep your good hands from going off and working for somebody else?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, we try to be as good to them as we can.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What does it take to make people happy and satisfied …
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, it takes a lot of things. We try to give bonuses. We pay the hospitalization on all of our workers. Then we've got a good rate for them on their dependents. And we give two weeks off, one at Christmas and one at the Fourth of July, with pay. And we try to pay rates that's going, or either above the neighborhood rates. And we try to have good working conditions. It's just so many things that you can't mention, that's all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about just good personal relationships with people? Do you think that makes a difference?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, I get out among the folks, and I joke and talk with them. I try to be not exactly down on the level with them. I try to keep myself a little above them, which naturally you have to. But if I've got any enemies out there in that plant, I don't know it. I know one thing: when I'm a-travelling around, me and my wife, to these other plants, they're always concerned about me. They're concerned about me. We've got a plant that we just finished building in Springs, Virginia. I don't know whether I've got a picture of it here or not. I don't believe I ever got a picture at home of it. It's as big as this building here, 28,000 square feet. And me and my wife was over there summer, working with it. We had started over there about seven years ago in a gymnasium building and just outgrew it. It wasn't satisfactory for a glove operation, no way.