Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Robertson, August 13, 1979. Interview H-0288. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions within the organized labor movement

Robertson offers a glimpse at some of the tensions within the union movement, describing the resentment some industrial union members felt for members of craft unions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Robertson, August 13, 1979. Interview H-0288. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
This labor union in Asheville has been around for a very long time.
MARY ROBERTSON:
Yes, it's been around for a long time, because there has been a very old building trades group in Asheville. One of our local unions was chartered before the turn of the century, the Carpenters. And that, of course, was the AF of L. Then when the amalgamation of the AF of L and the CIO took place, there was already the base there, you see. There was no industrial council in this area at that time. The major industrial unions were textile in this area at that time, and there was no industrial council; there was a building trades council, but not an industrial council. So when the amalgamation took place, it was natural that the base would be the Building Trades Council. It was what the amalgamated group built on. The result is that in western North Carolina the building trades are the backbone of the Central Labor Union, whereas in other parts of the state you would hardly know they exist. They exist, but I mean they don't take as active a role in the leadership of the Central Labor Unions. The industrial unions take the active leadership role.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When that amalgamation took place, was there a lot of tension or resistance, the craft unions versus the industrial unions?
MARY ROBERTSON:
I'm sure that there were. I don't know that from personal contact, because I was not involved in the labor movement when that took place, but I'm sure there were, and one reason I'm sure is because it still crops up occasionally, not any real animosity but a difference between the building trades, the craft unions and the industrial unions.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you characterize that difference?
MARY ROBERTSON:
In western North Carolina, where, as I say, the building trades are the backbone of the central labor movement, the craft unions do not always understand the problems faced by the industrial workers, and the industrial workers do not always understand the problems faced by the craft unions. And you occasionally run across a little sneer about how much money plumbers make. And conversely, you run across a little sneer about factory workers.