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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Cole, May 10, 1981. Interview H-0311. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reasons for joining a textile mill union

Cole joined the union after the strike began because he thought he should receive higher wages. There may have been a personal dimension to his decision as well: he crossed the picket line on the first day of the strike, was reprimanded by his boss, and did not return to work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Cole, May 10, 1981. Interview H-0311. 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:
So, what happened there after that first day? Inspection and reeling department went out and then what happened?
ROBERT COLE:
They was out for a few days, I don't remember just how long, nevertheless they got a bunch of troops in here and had some arrested. A bunch of troops in here, and there was a man that run a store here in Elizabethton that was over them named Bob Johnson. They did a little bit of shooting on the highway one time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who shot who?
ROBERT COLE:
Nobody didn't get shot, tires got shot at trying to stop them from coming to work. One man got on the witness stand at the trial and showed his bullets that was shot through his tire and didn't puncture the inner-tube. The bullet had battered against the wheel on the inside. Now he swore something that wasn't so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you first get involved? Did you join the union?
ROBERT COLE:
Yes, I did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you join?
ROBERT COLE:
I didn't join the union until a day or two after the strike.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What made you decide to join up?
ROBERT COLE:
Well, I just thought we were all due more pay money. They wasn't paying us enough. They was working us for nothing. Now you think about working fifty-six hours for eleven dollars. That's what they were paying them down there then in the reeling department. I was making $29.40 so I just felt like they did. I worked a day after they come in. The boss man got a little smart with me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did the boss man say to you?
ROBERT COLE:
I was a little late getting in. You see, they had a picket line, and I had a little trouble getting through. Finally I got through, went on in, and he told me he wouldn't stand for that. I told him he would stand for more than that. I got a little warm and I quieted him down and that was the end of it. I didn't go back into work the next day at all, but they wanted me to come back to work.