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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Johnnie Jones, August 27, 1976. Interview H-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

An abortive effort at unionization at Pomona Terracotta

Jones illustrates some of the difficulties unions faced as they tried to infiltrate southern industries after World War II. At the Pomona Terracotta Factory, for example, Jones remembers that his employers treated him well, precluding the need for a union; that strikers got little sympathy from factory owners; and that workers unused to union dues grumbled about their smaller paychecks at the end of each month. This dissatisfaction doomed the union one year after it gained a foothold at Pomona Terracotta.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Johnnie Jones, August 27, 1976. Interview H-0273. 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

BRENT GLASS:
Did you vote yourself?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, I didn't vote.
BRENT GLASS:
Why?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Well, there was no need of me voting, 'cause I wasn't going for the union.
BRENT GLASS:
You weren't going to?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, I wasn't going for it.
BRENT GLASS:
Why not?
JOHNNIE JONES:
I didn't want to have one. Well, I'll tell you: some places it's all right for a union. But a place like that, there wasn't no need for a union.
BRENT GLASS:
Why not?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Because you got anything you wanted. If you needed fifty dollars a day, you could go right there and get in. A union wasn't going to let you have it. If you wanted you a house built, you could get you a house built; they'd build it for you. You'd pay them just like you want to. Now this house right here, I built this house through the company. How much you think this house cost me?
BRENT GLASS:
To build? I don't know. When was it built?
JOHNNIE JONES:
In '40.
BRENT GLASS:
1940. So maybe something like three thousand dollars?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No sir, fifteen hundred dollars. And this land I got here, I didn't pay not a nickel for it. Now would a union have done that for me? You reckon it would?
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, I don't know.
JOHNNIE JONES:
And if any of your people went to the office and you didn't have no money to pay the bills you didn't have that to worry about. They'd pay you; you'd pay them just like you'd want to.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes. Why do you think the others went for the union then? Were they the younger fellows?
JOHNNIE JONES:
The younger fellows went for it; that's who mostly went for it, the younger fellows. And some fellows… They got it one time; some of the fellows working right along there with you were paying union dues, and you wasn't paying nothing. You was getting all the benefit of the too, you see.
BRENT GLASS:
Of the contract?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
So they had a contract with the company?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Did the company try to stop them?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, they didn't stop them. First and last, all of them pulled out, the boys did.
BRENT GLASS:
Who did?
JOHNNIE JONES:
All the boys that worked there pulled out.
BRENT GLASS:
They went on strike?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, they just struck one time.
BRENT GLASS:
When was that?
JOHNNIE JONES:
And a man told them, he said, "Now if you want to work it's all right, and if you don't it's all right. You can go back to work. That don't make no difference with them." So all of them went back to work.
BRENT GLASS:
Were they striking for more money?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Now let me get this straight. First, about twelve or fifteen years ago (or sometime around there) they had an election for a union.
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes, yes, that's right.
BRENT GLASS:
And the union won?
JOHNNIE JONES:
That's right.
BRENT GLASS:
And this was a CIO union?
JOHNNIE JONES:
I think it was CIO. AFL or one; I know it was one of the two.
BRENT GLASS:
Was it Stonecutters' Union or brick?
JOHNNIE JONES:
I don't know, to tell you the truth.
BRENT GLASS:
And then after that they went on strike one time.
JOHNNIE JONES:
One time. Well, I was going to work then at eleven o'clock. When I got there I said, "What's the matter down here? Everything's standing still here." Everybody said, "We're on strike." I said, "Strike for what?" Well, couldn't nobody tell me. Well, the superintendent (one of the Borens was superintendent then) come out there and told them that "If you all want to work you can work, and if you don't, why it don't make no difference with me." So the boys went back over there to Number Four plant and went on to work. Them boys at Number Three were still working.
BRENT GLASS:
They were still on strike?
JOHNNIE JONES:
One bunch was striking and the other bunch was working.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they argue with each other and say, you know, to each other, "Why are you working. You're supposed to be on strike."
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, as far as I knowed. See, I didn't go to work 'til eleven o'clock then. I was going to work at eleven and off at seven; 11:15 and off at 7:15. So everything was standing still when I got there. So I just went on and started up my part of it and went on about my business.
BRENT GLASS:
So is there still a union over there?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, ain't no union over there.
BRENT GLASS:
When did that stop?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Oh, it stopped in about a year; it lasted about a year. Them boys would be mad when payday'd come. They'd see union dues marked up there on their check and the other boys didn't have it, and they were standing around laughing at them. I don't see no need of a union when you can get what you want.
BRENT GLASS:
And the company always kept you pretty satisfied?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.