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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

Efficiency at the plant spiked after the buyout, Jones recalls. The effects were acute: employee morale plummeted as the plant's new owners pressured them to increase output despite layoffs, undeserving employees won promotions, and management threatened workers. This passage reveals the dramatic effect a change in management can have on the character of a business.

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:
Did efficiency increase after the buy out?
IVEY C. JONES:
Yes, a great deal. Before we didn't have a production rate to run and then after maybe a year all of a sudden we had a production rate that we were running at the plant. I mean, the employees had been cut in half. Production had been increased maybe three to four times the amount we were running with a full crew.
JEFF COWIE:
That's amazing!
IVEY C. JONES:
It is amazing and the amazing part about it is that more work was being produced with half the people than it was with all the people that was there. Everybody was caring a load. It wasn't the type of thing where you were just doing one particular job; I mean, like the people they laid off you had to pick up and do part of their work, too. So the work load was divided out among everybody; where you used to do one job you were having to do maybe two or three jobs, and you were still getting the same amount of pay.
JEFF COWIE:
What was the impact of that on the feeling in the shop and the people overworked?
IVEY C. JONES:
Oh God, it was astronomical. The attitude of the people just went to the pits. Everybody felt like they were being overworked. Everybody felt like they were being pushed. One thing you have to realize is that the people who had worked at White's had never been used to this type of pressure before. It was always the type of thing where we need to get this amount done so how about coming on and see if we can get it. Then it was the type of thing where we've got to have this whatever the cost is, I don't care, just get it done because that's what we've got to have. To put that type of pressure on people who hadn't been used to it they were just completely crushed. They were just like running around like chickens with their heads cut off saying, "I don't understand why we have to do it like this." Then we had a whole lot of people that were set in their ways and had been doing this particular job twenty years this way and now it's different, you do it my way or the highway. There were some people that were fired for that particular reason. They didn't conform, they didn't do the job the particular way that management wanted it done so they were let go. It didn't make any difference how many years experience you had, you were gone, you were out the door. Even people who had been there for twenty to twenty-five years were constantly being threatened, "Well, if you can't do your job, we'll just find somebody else that can." It came down to the point where we even had our whole department threatened one time. We were called together to a meeting because we put out some bad work. They said, "We have a mess out in finish, we can't run it, and we are going to send all of ya'll home today. If you can't come back tomorrow and do a better job don't even bother coming back." This is the type of thing we had to deal with.
JEFF COWIE:
That could make a guy nervous.
IVEY C. JONES:
Exactly. And then too, by the same token, it can make a person extremely rebellious. I mean, when you are an adult in the work place you are not a child. You don't expect to be talked to like a child. A lot of times if you treat people with dignity and respect you can get a whole lot more out of them than to say, "I got to have this." It's just like going back to the days of slavery where you say, "This has got to be done because the master has said so and that's just the way it is." With no say so that caused a lot of animosity at the plant. Another thing, going back to the supervisor and assistant supervisor positions, they were making a lot of people assistant supervisors that had been at the plant that really didn't deserve the position because they hadn't done anything. I know several cases where I had been there sixteen years and a lot of guys they offered these positions to didn't do nothing, they hadn't done anything. They basically hadn't carried their workload or anything.
JEFF COWIE:
How do you think they were chosen?
IVEY C. JONES:
It would be hard to say. I don't know whether they were chosen because they were liked by different people in management or they just felt like maybe this person can do the job if given the opportunity. I really don't know. In some cases I'm quite sure it was favoritism. That's in all jobs you go to where it's going to be that type of thing where someone will say, "I like him, I think he can do a pretty good job. Let's give him a shot." It doesn't make any difference that this other guy has been ahead of him by fifteen years waiting for this position or probably more qualified. That's basically how business is run. That's basically how business was run at White's.