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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ivey C. Jones, January 18, 1994. Interview K-0101. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

New owners change the atmosphere at White's for the worse

Jones describes his ascent through the ranks at the White Furniture Company. That ascent stopped when the company was bought, however, and Jones complains that the new owners did not respect seniority when making hiring decisions. He is describing not only a change in management style, but also a change in spirit.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ivey C. Jones, January 18, 1994. Interview K-0101. 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

JEFF COWIE:
Where did you start?
IVEY C. JONES:
I started blocking drawers. That was a job where the guy who worked on the other side would build the drawers. That consisted of once you picked the drawer up you'd turn it upside down and shoot staples in the corners all the way around the drawer. Then you would go back and put two blue blocks right beside the center piece that went down the drawer called the mont. You would put a little glue on each side of that and then glue the blocks in and then stack it on the load. It was a very menial job. When you first went to White's that's basically what you started on, menial jobs. It wasn't a job where you had a lot of responsibility. It wasn't a job where it took a great deal of skill. It was just basic employment. Then you had to work your way up from there. You had to prove that you could do more, and you had to prove that you were willing to learn to advance up the ladder. The menial job wasn't too bad. You learned a lot about drawers because basically you just take it for granted when you see a drawer that it's just a drawer. You don't know what actually goes into building it or you just think that's a one-man job. It was a great experience.
JEFF COWIE:
How did you progress from there?
IVEY C. JONES:
I went from blocking drawers to building drawers. The guy I was working with retired and so I started building drawers. I built drawers for five years. Then there was a clamp position that came open--that was the job I was on when the plant shut down. You had a lot of different parts that would come to you, for instance, a dresser or a night table and it was your job to assemble everything, glue up all the case ends, put it in the clamp, and work it out. You and one other person would do that. When that job came up my supervisor thought I would be good for that and advised me to try. It would be more money also. I worked that job for eleven years. I blocked drawers for five and then I was on the clamp for eleven.
JEFF COWIE:
That's a big commitment of time.
IVEY C. JONES:
Yes, exactly.
JEFF COWIE:
Were most people promoted from within? You usually wouldn't hire people from outside at the higher level positions?
IVEY C. JONES:
No, not at all. It was the type of thing where if you were an assistant supervisor, for instance, it was always thought if you were an assistant supervisor and something happened to the supervisor you automatically moved up. That's the way it used to be done. After White's was sold that wasn't the case at all. If you were the assistant supervisor that didn't mean a thing. They could pull somebody else from the outside if they wanted to. They could pull somebody from inside the plant that hadn't even had assistant supervisory training. It didn't matter and it was just basically who they felt like could do the best job the quickest. It was the type of thing where people used to base their employment record on seniority. Once White's sold out there was no such thing as seniority. Seniority went right out the door with White's. It was the type of thing of who could get the job done the fastest. That was seniority. When White's was bought out a lot of people had been there for years. Some of the people had thirty-five years. Some people had twenty-five years. They lost their jobs. Management felt like the positions they had weren't important and somebody else could do their job so they were let go.
JEFF COWIE:
Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that they were senior and were making the most money and so they were trying to cut costs?
IVEY C. JONES:
That's a possibility, but I can't necessarily say that would be fact, because some of the people they laid off weren't making that much money. It was just a position that they had that was drawing a check, and drawing a check didn't justify the job that they were doing. Even if they weren't making but three dollars an hour if the job didn't justify making three dollars an hour management saw that as a loss, we're losing money, we're paying this guy three dollars to do a job that doesn't even need to be done.