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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 >>

Family dynamics on the factory floor and concerns about government spending

Little prefers hiring members of the same family if possible, to tap into a predilection for hard work. There is a time when familiarity is undesirable, though, such as when romance blooms on the factory floor. As he discusses some of the problems that arise among his employees, Little begins to worry for the future of the country's youth, doomed by the excesses of government spending.

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:
Have you often had whole families that worked for you?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Yes. We've been close together on families here. We've had three and four out of the same family working for us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you try to hire that way when you can?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Oh, yes, if we think they… If you get into a family that's good workers, boy, that's the way you want to go. And if you get a man and his wife that likes to come to work together and all, that's good, too. Now a lot of factories don't have that policy; they don't want to work anybody… But now we're not that way. I think it's an advantage to us in our business.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why do some people think it's a disadvantage?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, if you fire one, you have to fire the other one. Of course, we've had it happen, too, here. We've had somebody get mad, and then their wife was mad, and then the first thing you know, some of them don't want to come back, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things happen that you have to fire people for?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
We had one man and his wife here working, and he got to rambling around and romancing about, and we had to get shut of him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was flirting with the other women?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
We've had moral conditions to pop up in the plant that we had to separate and get straightened out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Things that would happen right during work hours?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
No, but it'd probably lead to meeting each other out some place.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would word about that get around? How would you find out about that?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
We wouldn't find out for a while, but we'd soon catch on. They'd both be gone at the same time. It's easy to catch on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you have special problems with women workers that you don't have with men, or vice versa?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Well, yes and no. We have domestic problems, and hell, a lot of times they bring the domestic problems into the plant to the employer, and he's as innocent as anything can possibly be. Jealousy sometimes. "If you don't run so-and-so off, I'm going to leave," and we have those problems. Some; not much, but we have them, anyway. But we've not had anything lately to speak of.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Does that affect women more than men, domestic problems?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
It comes from them, more or less. A man, you know, kind of looks over a lot of stuff.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about problems of women with children, missing work … [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A] [TAPE 2, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
ARTHUR LITTLE:
And who loses out? The employer of the woman. With equal rights and all that stuff, I think the husband ought to do a little.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Exactly. [Laughter]
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Yet ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it falls on the woman. Although we do have some women here in the office that "I see that my husband takes them to the dentist and to some other things, and I take them to the doctor." That she's not out just for every little thing. But usually it falls in the hands of the woman, the mother, to look after, which I guess, maybe, is more or less right. But we have that problem.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you have some kind of policy about things like that?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
No, we have to take every individual to itself. Hell, you set policy, why, the first thing you know, somebody's going to want to break it, and you may lose the best operator you've got, and you don't want to do that. You have to give and take in the glove business, because your operators are too precious.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you just really deal on an individual basis.
ARTHUR LITTLE:
You've got to handle every case to itself.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were really running the business more than you are now, would operators come into your office and talk to you about these individual problems, or who would they ask?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Oh, yes, we've had women to come to talk to us about everything under the sun. [Laughter] Yes, we still get it today. Of course, it's not every day, but it happens over the years. Oh, yes, the women, especially, more so than men, there's so much gets built up in them, till they've got to tell it to somebody. And, of course, I sit down and listen and sympathize with them, and if you can help them, help them, I think. You know, life's not easy, and when you've got three or four children and you have to work every day… No, it's not easy. And my, how we helped. Why, oh, why we have treated the young generation so damned dirty and I don't know what. My generation—say, a few years before me up to this time—we have treated our young people dirty.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you mean?
ARTHUR LITTLE:
… Let me get all my damn notes down here. When Roosevelt took over this country, our national debt was was a mere sixteen billion dollars. We have spent money; our government has spent money and has gone in debt. The Social Security was drained almost before it got off the ground by giving it to people that had never put nothing in it. Lots of farmers drew on their Social Security for years, having never put in but maybe thirty-six dollars. That's twelve dollars a year for three years. Today it's in debt head over heels, and it's sucking itself now to stay alive. Who's a-paying it? The young people. Our national debt, in all, is at least one trillion dollars. Who's going to pay it? I'm not; I'm not going to live long enough. We have let building get so high that the young people, scarcely few of them can own a home. They have to go in debt for thirty years to pay, and look at the interest they pay. Now we've run the gasoline price up so high that they have to pay a tremendous price for gasoline. They have to pay a tremendous price for an automobile. Isn't that doing somebody dirty? No wonder some of our young people get off the straight and…() Never in the history of man has anybody been so damn dirty to their young people that are coming along as we have. I just defy anybody to tell me an age that's been any worse on the young people than we have.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It is hard .
ARTHUR LITTLE:
Hell fire. Why, the animals don't treat each other… Our country and our leaders have made debt that it seems like they don't give a damn whether they ever pay it or not.