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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Unions in the trucking industry

Outlaw describes the spread of union membership in the trucking industries. As unions took hold in the Northeast, they were able to pressure southern companies into allowing unionization; Outlaw notes some of their tactics here. Despite significant pressure, however, many North Carolina trucking companies remained union-free.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. 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:
Let me go back for information's sake and see if I can get you to tell me about this question of unions, just from the point of view of someone who doesn't know anything about it. Are there large union memberships of truck drivers in this state?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Yes, really …
ALLEN TULLOS:
When did that begin, and how large, and so on?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
The Teamsters were actually team drivers of mules and horses in the northern areas, not in the southern areas. And as the truck came in, instead of a man driving mules or horses in New York City and that area, in those big cities, he then got a job driving a truck. They replaced the wagon with a truck. And that's how they got the name "Teamsters". And this type of thing was more or less only in the very large northern cities. Then as time went on and the industry grew, the truck companies of North Carolina that went into the northern area, they would not let them unload or load unless they had union help. And then they could put the pressure on that they would not unload them unless they had a union driver. So it meant that any carrier in North Carolina having equipment go up that way would have had to get… I'll give you a right interesting thing that happened over a period of years. The unions would not let you drive a truck into New York City… They went through the Holland Tunnel. They had drivers on this side of the tunnel, and when they got there our driver would have to move over, and the union driver would drive it through the tunnel on the other side, and they'd charge twenty-five dollars at that time. That was tremendous money. And that was done for year in, year out, and finally after a whole lot of procedures and efforts they finally got rid of that. But then the union did move into Atlanta, Georgia, and other places, but we do still have a large number of carriers in North Carolina that are not union. But those that do operate real frequently and a lot into Atlanta and to the northern area.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How early are you talking about when the first North Carolina truck drivers would have been Teamsters? Was it after World War II?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I believe, frankly, that I don't remember a union driver before World War II. It could have been, but I don't think there were.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Have there been any organizing efforts within the state itself?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Oh, yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
None that you can remember before World War II?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
I don't think so. I imagine there were some drivers that were, that operated into New York City. In fact, I know there had to be, pretty well, so there were some, but it was very limited. And today, from the overall() standpoint, carriers that operate within the state of North Carolina are not unionized, and those that operate into the various major areas of the country are unionized.