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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul and Pauline Griffith, May 30, 1980. Interview H-0247. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Subtle subversion of authority in the textile mills

Paul and Pauline Griffith describe one way in which workers could subtly subvert the power of mill bosses. Although they contend that workers could not openly challenge the authority of their bosses, nor did they tend to formally file complaints against their overseers, they say that in the 1920s there was enough mill work locally that if they were unhappy in one factory, they could easily find work elsewhere.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul and Pauline Griffith, May 30, 1980. Interview H-0247. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
In other words, you all could really have a lot to say about who the boss was. The people who were weaving or working in the weaving room had something to say, at least, about whether a good boss got to stay, or one that was bad had to leave? Would that be true?
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
No. Not back then. Not necessarily. But the one over the top watched so closely until he could sense what was going on. He was just a wonderful person, Mr. Bobo. He was real good. To see that working conditions were what they should be.
PAUL GRIFFITH:
Take Bobo. When people go a-quitting, he'd be wanting to know what's the matter. See, he had a second-hand under him, over the people. And if that second-hand was too hard on the help, and they go to quitting-see, there'd be several mills around and a person could just quit and go to another mill. And when several do go, he'd be calling somebody in, wanting to know what's the matter with the help.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
That's the way he found out.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So really the workers did have a lot to say about things indirectly.
PAUL GRIFFITH:
Yeah.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So people would start quitting, and they'd have to make some changes.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
Yes they would, because back then, if you wanted to go down in and work, all you had to do was go over and ask for a job and you could just go right to work. The same way these other plants around.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did the different mills have different reputations at different times about one being a better place to work than another? Some overseer being a better one to try to work for or things like that?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
I imagine they're about the same.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
I think they're about the same. They kind of work together, you know, kind of like a unit. Different plant managers checked with the others, and it's about the same.