Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kong Phok, December 19, 2000. Interview K-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Conscious of good fortune, treating employees fairly

Phok describes his management philosophy as a production manager at Guilford Mills, which two months before this interview moved to Mexico. Conscious of his own good fortune, he treated his employees with kindness and fairness.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kong Phok, December 19, 2000. Interview K-0273. 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

KONG PHOK:
After I got out of high school, okay. I found me a full-time job.
BARBARA LAU:
Doing what?
KONG PHOK:
Which is Gilford Mills. I was a machine operator. I'd been there for two years, then I got promoted to be a supervisor, a lead person. Right now, the company is closed. I found a job right now. I mean, I've been home for two months now. But they're paying me for severance pay package. I have like a package. They move to Mexico, my company. Right now I found a job which is a good job, but I'm waiting for the answer this week. They're supposed to let me know by this week.
BARBARA LAU:
Another mill? A different kind of mill?
KONG PHOK:
You can say mill, but it's like a product company. Have you heard of Olympic Products?
BARBARA LAU:
What do they make?
KONG PHOK:
Carpets, foam and stuff for carpets.
BARBARA LAU:
I haven't heard of them.
KONG PHOK:
Like the pads and stuff.
BARBARA LAU:
But do you would work there running the machine or be a supervisor or ߞ
KONG PHOK:
Production manager. Since I have the experience as a supervisor, I always try toߞbecause I know how hard it is to be a regular worker. If I be a manager, because I know what kind of person I am, I will be fair, because I have a lot of experience under a supervisor who is likeߞlike in Gilford Mills when I was a regular worker, they have a little crew, I mean a little squad. Some squad is hanging around with the supervisor, they always, you know, think about him, take care of them. Like come late, they'll take care. I wasn't in one of those squad, but you know, I feel sorry for others. I don't know why I get lucky, so lucky, always meet a good person. I meet somebody who always care about me, or you know, never want to harm anything, which my parents always pray every time to let me meet those kind of person and stuff. And I have experience as a regular worker, you know. It's always crook everywhere. I'm telling you, even though they say, it's no equal ߞeven though the job say it's equal employment, it's inside you don't know. I mean, I seen what it is. We run machines. Though I've seen old people, they'll work and stuff, and young people, because they know the supervisor, they'll stay in the break room so long, let the old people work and stuff. When I got promoted to be a supervisor, I don't let that happen again. I just tell them, you know, that's not it. You have to follow the policy. Everybody is the same thing. It's like you get to work more if you don't know to supervise. You know what I'm saying? You just work harder than regular other workers. So, since I have the experience, I always like looking for job, I'm always looking in the manager, you know, supervisor position.
BARBARA LAU:
In Gilford Mills, were there a lot of other Cambodians that worked there, or was it a mix of people?
KONG PHOK:
In my plant, there was only three Cambodians and a few Indians. In my father plant, which is Gilford Mills too, yes, they have a lot of international people, different people.
BARBARA LAU:
A lot of different people. When you supervised people, you supervised a lot of different kinds of people?
KONG PHOK:
Yes, different. Yeah.
BARBARA LAU:
Did that ever create any problems for you?
KONG PHOK:
Not really, because I treat people the same thing, except that you know, it'sߞ even though when I talk to the Cambodian workers sometime in my own language, they probably think that, oh, you trying to workߞI do have those workers saying to me, oh, you take care of them because they're your own kind and stuff, but I don't do that. But like I say, like my boss tell me, there's always people trying to make you get mad at them, because they're trying to make you jeopardize your job. It took me a long time to get that position. I mean, I'm the boss, even though they do that, if I tell them to do it, they have to do it. That's the main thing. Why would I worry about what they say? I mean, I treat everybody fair.