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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Wages and working conditions in local cotton mills eventually improved by unions

Children often worked in the cotton mill if they met the height and weight requirements. Most people were happy to work and earn wages, even though they were always low. George Dyer thanks unions for eventually raising wages and bringing new employee benefits, but he warns against unions that place too much pressure on companies.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. 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

LU ANN JONES:
A lot of children went to work when they were about fourteen years old?
TESSIE DYER:
They might now, but they didn't then, you had to be. . . .
GEORGE DYER:
Back then they did, they don't now. Yeah, they went to work fourteen years old back then. They had to weigh so much and be so tall; I forget how it was now. I remember talking to some boys. They had to weigh over eighty pounds and had to be close to five foot tall-had to have examination. I remember I didn't go to work that young-had no public works. I done a lot of work help my daddy out at the store and different things.
TESSIE DYER:
I used to hear mother and daddy talk about cheap wages, what they'd make.
LU ANN JONES:
Were they happy with the wages, were they upset with the wages?
TESSIE DYER:
They wasn't upset with them because everywhere else, didn't make anymore wages than that.
GEORGE DYER:
I wanted more. I didn't think I earned enough because they making too big a profit off of us. I figured all of them made too much profit until the union come in. Now the union organizer helped the people in people's work.
LU ANN JONES:
Where did the union organize?
GEORGE DYER:
It organized up north first before it come south. The northern states the ones organized. It started in the big cities; that's where it organized. Brotherhood Railways was the first to organize, I think-you can look that up. I'm not for sure. That's one of the oldest organizations in this country-the Brotherhood Railways.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you like being in the union when you were working in New York?
GEORGE DYER:
It was all right-they took out so much out of my check. They protect you and give you more money and see that you treated better and had better conditions. The union's all right if they don't carry it too far, you know what I mean. You can go too far of anything. You got to think about the man that owns the corporation, too, you know. He's got to make a profit so he can pay you. If you press him too much, if you put the pressure on the employer, they'll get fretted with it and they won't cooperate. Some of them close down, some of them won't, it's according to what kind of business they got; they don't like that. The way I look at it, nobody wants nobody to tell them how to run their business, I don't think. Course, the unions helped the working class people all over the country. It made better conditions in the plants; it made better conditions for the people. It got them medical attention. You were speaking about the nurse aid a while ago, that's what started the nurse aid. The unions done a lot of good. Lot of people retired now drawing good pensions on account of the unions-drawing social security and also a pension and fringe benefits, they call it. Wasn't no such thing years ago as a fringe benefit. A lot of people draws that now.