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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 >>

Unions have helped hold employers accountable

George Dyer argues that employers should work harder to give workers an equitable share of the company profits. Unions have been instrumental in bridging class divides in this country by making employers accountable. In hindsight, Dyer probably would have gone on strike against Charlotte cotton mills for higher wages.

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:
Did you have a pension from the mill?
GEORGE DYER:
No, they didn't give us nothing. That's the one mistake they made. They should of give us a pension. That wasn't right fair. See many people work down there a lifetime, didn't get no pension-no fringe benefit.
TESSIE DYER:
At Christmas, and in July, they used to give us some bonds-&18.75, something like that.
GEORGE DYER:
That wasn't a drop in the bucket what we made for them. That's where it comes in at, they wasn't fair. Working class never has been treated fair up till here the last years, they've been treated fair. You know what brought it along?
LU ANN JONES:
What?
GEORGE DYER:
The unions. The unions is one's organized, the others have to come up almost to the union wages to make the people satisfied. That's the reason the unions done good. You take for instance R. J. Reynolds, and the Dukes-they come from England years ago-they in Durham. They made a fortune off of the people who were raising tobacco-the farmers. They bought tobacco cheap, and then they hired their labor cheap. So that away, they made double. They sold the stuff they manufactured for good money. The farmer didn't get his share, and the employee didn't get his, but they doing better now since the last World War. People's been better since the second war. People's made pretty good wages since then. They live better, they have more money to spend to get what they want. See, years ago, people in the kitchen didn't have the appliances they got now. Now they got them, and I'm glad of it. People where they able, they had the money to get them, but the other people couldn't. But they are now, they doing good.
LU ANN JONES:
If you had been here at the time that there were strikes, if you had been here before . . . would you have struck? Would you have joined the union at that time?
GEORGE DYER:
The way I feel about it now, believe I would have. I'll tell you you the reason why, they wasn't paying them enough, wasn't giving them enough money. They wasn't paying them enough wages. I think that a man owns a corporation ought to make a good profit. If they ain't going to give him a raise, at the end of the year, give him a bonus-give him a good bonus. If you make a good profit during that year, if they sell the stuff and make good profit, let the employee know he made a good profit. He should provide-give him a share of what they made. That's the way I believe . . . I don't believe in wasting I don't believe being in the left, the right, and being in the middle. I believe in being conservative about everything. I think it would be better for everybody. That's taking advantage of people. They can do it because they can. That's the reason they do it, they can and they get by with it.
LU ANN JONES:
Who is they that takes advantage of people?
GEORGE DYER:
The rich man. That's what they're doing today. We can't live like the rich. We got to have the rich to live. If it wasn't for the rich people, the poor people would suffer, working class. Yet, that's the ones. What I mean by that is some corporation looks after the employees. They get a good wage benefit and all that. But, actually some don't care. You've seen that in your lifetime, haven't you? That's true. It say, "Justice for All," and it ain't justice for all. It's justice for some, but it ain't for all. You say you're all equal-you ain't. We divided. Our country right now is divided.
LU ANN JONES:
Between who? Rich and poor? What's the division?
GEORGE DYER:
We're divided just about everything. The man's got the money, he can get what he wants, the man ain't got it can't do nothing. The man's got money, got power. I mean plenty of money. Everybody can't be like that, you know. People ain't that smart. Like I was speaking, a man's working a lot of people, they ought to give him a just wage so he can give the family a better living-the little children coming up. So the kids will have a chance for an education. That's about all I got to say.