Cleveland Walton, Clara Smith, Angie Rosner, Don Rodgers, Interviews and ACTWU local 1855 meeting

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GEORGE STONEY: -- talking to him about the union, how he feels about the union, the fact that you work in the union and then the reluctance of your brothers and sisters to speak with him even now about this.

CLARA SMITH: Mm-hmm. So where do you want me to start? Do you want me to start as I’m talking to myself or talking to my daddy or --?

GEORGE STONEY: Talk to your daddy. Then you can say as we were making this movie we wanted these people to talk with you about how they felt.

SMITH: OK. As we were making this film, Daddy, other members of my family which 1:00are now working in non-union plants was reluctant to talk to us about -- do you want me to stop?

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s just hold it.

JAMIE STOMEY: We’re rolling.


SMITH: Just as we, Daddy, have been talking about the making of this movie and this film other members of my family -- my sisters and brothers which now work in non-union plants -- were a little reluctant to talk to us on film about the conditions in the plant today. Right now I’m working for a union, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers -- can I stay that?

GEORGE STONEY: Start again. (laughter)

SMITH: I’m very green.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Explain that you wanted to talk to them about -- what do you 2:00want to talk to him about -- about being -- and why they were reluctant.

SMITH: Can I say what union I work for?

GEORGE STONEY: Sure, no problem.

SMITH: I wasn’t sure about that.

HELFAND: When you said brother and sister -- are you planning to be that specific?

SMITH: I can say brother and sister.

GEORGE STONEY: Members of her family. That’s good enough.

SMITH: OK. Daddy as we have been talking about the making of this film, other members, my sisters and brother who work in non-union plants have been a little reluctant to talk to us about the conditions in the plant today. Currently I work for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union and how do you feel about my working for a union? Are they any -- I mean how do you feel -- are there any fear -- I talk to a lot of people and they tell me that my family that they fear for my life when I go out on campaigns to organize. How do you feel about that?

CLEVELAND WALTON: I feel fine. I like it. I don’t think you’re doing nothing wrong.

SMITH: You don’t think I’m doing anything wrong? No?


WALTON: No. That’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m glad for it.

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you think they are reluctant to talk to you about things in the plant now -- your -- people who are in the non-union plants?

SMITH: I don’t think they’re reluctant to talk to us about the conditions in the plant; they’re reluctant to talk because of -- still to this day as my father explained earlier about if they had any activities involving the union -- although this movie is about the 1934 strikes and the making of this film -- they are concerned that if their faces are shown on television or in this film that they will be recognized within the plants and they fear for their jobs still. I mean the same thing is going on now in 1990 as it was in 1934, 1914. So I mean I don’t think -- I mean they would come out and talk about the conditions in the plant but they are reluctant because of their jobs still.


GEORGE STONEY: Ask your father why he didn’t join the union.

SMITH: OK. Daddy, can you explain to me why you didn’t join the union. You said at one time --

GEORGE STONEY: Just ask him why he didn’t join the union.

SMITH: OK. Daddy, explain to me why you didn’t join the union.

WALTON: Well I was scared of my job. If I had joined a union I wouldn’t have had no job. I would be in the street.

SMITH: You would’ve been in the street?

WALTON: Yeah. I had to hold onto my job. I wanted it. If I could, I would’ve done it, but I like it.

GEORGE STONEY: Now pick up and explain how other people now have the same fears.

SMITH: Well the same fear exists today with workers that work in non-union plants, as well as my sister and brother -- they fear that if they are seen or associated with this film that they could be fired; which that’s true. I mean they could still be released from their jobs today.

WALTON: They would fire them.

SMITH: They would get fired.


WALTON: They wouldn’t have no jobs. Sure wouldn’t.


(break in video)

JAMIE STONEY: Are you proud of your daughter being in the union?

WALTON: I sure is. I’m so glad I don’t know what to do about it. I’m happy for her.

JAMIE STONEY: Do you get worried about her when she’s out there organizing?

WALTON: Well, no, I don’t be worried. I feel -- good Lord -- if she got Him, she’s all right. That’s what I said.

JAMIE STONEY: Do you think he’s looking out for her?

WALTON: That’s right.

JAMIE STONEY: She’s doing the right thing?


WALTON: I think she is. He’ll looked after her this far. (inaudible)

SMITH: My daddy always been a fighter. I mean he’s a father of 15 children; he raised all of us. A lot of us took after him, you know, our spirit -- the fighting spirit -- we just go out and do it. You don’t think twice about what you’re doing.

JUDITH HELFAND: Clara you worked in the mill for a while, can you tell us about that.

SMITH: As my daddy explained earlier, he got all of us jobs in the mill as we got older in high school -- it was like a tradition -- all of us went into the mill. Daddy got me a job in the mill and the supervisor, whoever hired me, put me to train with my sister -- which she refuses to be on camera -- and when we went into the mills I was totally overwhelmed that you were in here; all this noise and huge machine that they wanted me to train. It was a spinning machine; they wanted me to stick my hand into this machine and grab this bobbin that was 7:00going like a thousand miles an hour and I could never build my nerves up to stick my hand in this machine so I worked there for two nights. (break in video) Are we rolling now?

JAMIE STONEY: Yeah, we’re rolling now.

SMITH: OK. After I got hired on this job and Daddy took me to the personnel office and he told the guy that, you know, I was the daughter, and naturally any of my daddy’s children that he recommend for a job got a job because he’s such a good worker in this plant. So that night I went to work and I walked in with my sister, I did, and again I was like totally astonished at all the machinery, the cotton, the lint -- and everybody working at fast speed, fast, tremendous fast pace -- and it took -- my sister took me over -- the supervisor took my sister and myself over to this machine and she said, “You train your sister how to do this job,” and I looked and I say, “There’s no way I can 8:00do this,” but at the same time my sister was like doing it. It was incredible to see her do this and I look at her hands and her hands are all cut up, you know, and I, you know, said to myself, there’s no way I can do this. And I told my daddy after the second night, you know I’m one of your only children that will not make it (laughter) in the cotton mills, you know, I quit. He didn’t argue with me and so I went onto school and he supported me in whatever I done thereafter, but he never pressured me about going back to work into the mill.

JAMIE STONEY: is that one of the things that made you want to get involved in labor organizations -- born of that experience?

SMITH: No. I got involved with labor purely accidental. I hate to say this because my family --

JAMIE STONEY: Wait until the car goes by.


SMITH: I got involved with labor afterwards -- this was quite a few years after. And it wasn’t because my family worked in the mill. As a matter of fact, talking to my father during this filming has been an experience for myself as well because I take it for granted that he worked in the mill all these years and we never really sit down to talk to him about the conditions and so forth and so forth. When I started to work for the union five years ago I applied for a job and I went in and got the job and once I found out what it was all about then I began to educate myself and my surroundings and I became involved in the union. It was just like it took possession of myself and my mind and myself and I feel like what we’re doing is the right thing and we (inaudible) all over the country -- all of us has the same attitude about our job when we go to work 10:00for ACTWU. I think, you know, pretty much most of the organizers on the staff and so forth feel the same way that we are totally dedicated to what we are doing and I wish that we could change the feelings as my sister --

WALTON: I do too.

SMITH: -- and other members of my family because most of my family works textile and most of them are non-union. But you know just because I’m union I cannot change their opinion because of the things that goes on inside of the plant.


(break in video)

M1: Let’s put that in the back somewhere. So how are we going to lay it out, the front page. Are we ready?

JAMIE STONEY: Yeah, we’re rolling.

DON ROGERS: OK, the front page. We need to -- Mason is going to be giving his editorial on the front page.

ANGIE ROSNER: Have you got a picture?

M1: He’s supposed to take a picture. Can she get one?


ROSNER: I think you should have a picture for the front page.

M1: Yeah. I think right on the right side maybe. What are we going to do on the second page? Do you want to have each local on each page like A, B, C?

ROGERS: Yeah. We need to put the grievance reports for each local on each page, too, that would make it consistent.

M1: We’ll put it in a box.

ROGERS: In a little box. Somewhere on this second page we need to put the newsletter staff, as always.

M1: Above the grievance procedure, do you want to do that? And have this article right over here and put a picture over here? Have a picture, maybe a cartoon? And then we get A, B, C all three are the same thing. On the mast page we want “union member to go,” which you took care of.

ROGERS: We need to leave some space for a safety report, too.


M1: We might put it on the bottom right here.

ROSNER: No. We always use full page on the back -- “union member on the go.”

ROGERS: Who is the “union member on the go?”

ROSNER: Willie Long.

M1: Safety report we’re going to have to put it on the 4th page, OK.

ROSNER: Inside, back page.

ROGERS: This will need about six or eight lines.

M1: OK. We have some other articles we can put in here; some cartoons.

ROGERS: We have some we didn’t use last month.

ROSNER: Did y’all want to use any of the portraits? Union portrait? Some of them are real short; you don’t have to take much space.

M1: We’ve got one more page left, so we can put anything we want to.

ROSNER: We can get somebody else to write an article.

M1: We’ll get George Stoney to write us one, how about that?

ROGERS: That’s an excellent idea.

ROSNER: Sounds good to me. And I’ve got a picture of him (laughter).


M1: I guess we let Reese proofread all the articles first and then we’ll take it down to the printer and have it typeset.

ROGERS: OK but I want to proof what the printer sends back because we had a lot of mistakes in the last issue.

ROSNER: Sure did.

ROGERS: That’s it right there.

GEORGE STONEY: I needed a little more from you -- just describe how you’re going to be doing the “union member on the go” and where you’re going to be putting the pictures?

ROSNER: Well Willie Long, I’ve got -- let’s see -- letters not that long, it’s not going to take up so much space that I think I can get three pictures of him. We put one picture like we did on this -- with the two pictures on the bottom and I do want to make sure that the pictures -- more pictures get in -- I was very disappointed with the last one. We only had one picture and I think it disappointed everybody.


ROGERS: There is a lot of empty space here, too. You can put two or three pictures in that space.

ROSNER: I think my article will be long enough. It will take this space and we’ll have three pictures and we will make sure that this time the “union member on the go” is larger instead of having it so small here, so it will be more noticeable.

ROGERS: Alright.

M1: Okay.

ROSNER: And I haven’t made my mind up on what kind of title to use yet but we will have “union member on the go” on top, OK?

M1: That’s about it.

ROSNER: Alright.

M1: I’ll see you next time at the meeting (laughter).

GEORGE STONEY: Nice. Very nice. Yeah, that’s going to work.

(break in video)

JAMIE STONEY: OK. Rolling. Go ahead.

ROSNER: OK. We want to use three pictures; we had in this one. We’ve got the space. It will be about the same size article. We want “union member on the go” on the top and have our pictures here as in this one. This was too much 15:00space, too much empty space. We’ll have our article here; that will give us plenty of room for our article. I haven’t made up my mind on a title yet, but we’ll have the title here. OK?

M1: OK.

GEORGE STONEY: Very good. Businesslike. Straight. Good. Of course it means that you have to lay it out exactly like that so we can dissolve from this to the finished product.

(break in video)

F1: This meeting, May 27, 1990, the meeting was called to order by Ernest Harris, President of Local 1855B, prayer by Angie Rogers, minutes read of previous meetings and (inaudible) as read. Grievance report as follows: Local 1855A Angie Rosner, B) Ernest Harris; C) Sandra Robinson. No other committee 16:00reports. Our international rep, Reese (inaudible) made brief remarks. No old business. New business: it was motion and second to suspend our regular June meeting, motion carried. Meeting adjourned at 3:40. Minutes submitted by Angie Rogers, Reese (inaudible), international representative. We will now have our grievance report and we’ll start with 1855A, Angie Rosner.

ROSNER: We have 17 second steps coming up Tuesday. That’s about all we got right now.

F1: B, Ernest Harris or Willie? Willie Long.

LONG: Our last grievance we had -- our last second step group we had six grievances and we settled two of them at second step and then went on third step and settled two more outside.


ERNEST HARRIS: Let me tell y’all the results of those grievances. We had one lady that had worked over overtime and she got regular pay for that Thursday night, they paid her time and-a-half for that Friday night and she got paid double time for that Sunday. So that was quite a big check that the company had to pay her. And we had another grievance where the company worked into overtime and they agreed to let her make up this overtime at her request. Anytime she wanted to come in and make it up she could make it up. We had another one that the company agreed to pay them for one day and let one stay on but the one that was up at the time it was decided to let it stay on. So that’s some of the stuff that happened in grievance.

F1: OK. Thanks to Ernest and Willie for that report. Now we will have the report from 1855C, Mamie [Gulligan?]

MAMIE GULLIGAN: Report for the (inaudible). While we had -- we got -- we had 18:00some second steps came up so we got two second steps going on the third step and we got one second step now, Marcia Gable third step was denied. Also Fieldcrest violated contract by changing the ratio on the clip and they just came out and change it and they didn’t go through procedure so now they have to back off of it and now they have to go all back over and do it right, so (inaudible), so, that’s about all unless Angie has something after this.

F1: I think that about does it with our grievance reports, but our other reports -- as you know -- the first part of June -- the first week in June -- that we went to Miami for our international convention and we’re going to ask Ernest Harris to give us a report of that convention.

HARRIS: The convention in Miami; it was an educational one for me as well as a 19:00fun trip. The meeting, like I say, were real educational. It was my first convention going to. I really enjoyed it. We had a meeting -- we had a meeting most days from like -- by eight o’clock in the morning up until about nine o’clock at night so we really were busy just about the whole time we were there except for two days we had a volleyball tournament. Those two days -- and our southern textile region came in second place and I think that’s about all right now.

F1: OK. And also when Mandela was in the U.S. he was in Atlanta and we participated in that. So we’re going to ask Don Rogers on the Mandela.

ROGERS: Well it was a blast. I’m talking about the whole stadium was packed. People cheering. They had a pre-rally entertainment with the African Dance 20:00Connection, Peabo Bryson and the Barefoot Ballet from South Africa and Coretta Scott King was there, Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson was there and Marvin [Akin?] from the City Council and it lasted about four hours and it was a trip worth going.

F1: Next report is our Labor Day -- you know every year we have a Labor Day parade and picnic so we have already started working on that so we’re going to ask Willie Long and Roosevelt what he said -- now that Roosevelt is here we’re going to ask Roosevelt to give us a report on the Labor Day parade and picnic:

ROOSEVELT: On Labor Day it’s going to be the 4th annual Labor Day march, rally and parade. First of all we ask that you all do come out, asking that you support it as you have in the past. We’re hoping to make some improvements. We’re trying to get some college vans, we’re trying to get a real, real good float this time so we can have us a queen, a king and some young people on the 21:00float and we’re asking -- trying to get a choir together this year too to help with some of the chants because I tell you what if I keep singing much more y’all won’t be able to hear me talking (laughter), but things are shaping up pretty good. Reese has agreed to work on it and I’m certainly glad. What we’re going to try to do as well is try to call as many as our union members and ACTWU out there -- about four or five Act Two members come September 3.

F1: Are there any more reports? If not, we’ll ask our international representative, Reese (inaudible) to come around for remarks.

REESE: Thank you, Angie. On the Labor Day Parade, since Roosevelt started talking about it, we are going to have a phone bank and we need as many people as possible to participate in it. We’re going to do it up here like two weeks early -- September 3 -- two weeks before that Monday we’re going to start and anybody that can come up here and help, it will be greatly appreciated. We have about three phones that we can use. Uh, now, who was here at the shift meetings 22:00last week on the continuous operation? Would you hold your hands up? Continuous operation shift meetings? OK, good. For the ones that wasn’t here, I’ll go through it briefly. We’ve met with the company four times. What the meetings were about -- these shift meetings were about -- was to bring you up-to-date on what had transpired in these meetings. There has been no negotiations at all. What we did -- we found out what we did -- through Ernest Harris -- the first one to let us know that the company was having meetings with people to tell them they were going to go on a 12 hour shift and would actually be starting in September. Now -- they have to negotiate with the union. They told us nothing at all about it so of course we got on the phone; we called down there and we forced the company to stop having these meetings and we forced them to sit down and meet with the leaders, the people you have voted for to run your 23:00local unions. So they set down, they talked with us and they told us what they would like to see. They even had a shift laid out for you -- how many days you’d work, how many hours, all that, but we blew holes in that. We told them, “Look, you know, what you’re telling us if you want a continuous operation, come talk with us, we’ll sit down with our people and we’ll discuss what they want if you actually do want a continuous operation, what shifts will be, what hours it will be, what time it starts, how the pay is figured, everything, vacations, everything.” So that’s where we’re at now. We had these meetings, we brought everybody up-to-date on exactly where we are. We asked them in these meetings if we could have your permission to go and talk with the company and really get down with negotiations because what we’ve been doing so far was these four meetings were educational meetings only; there were no negotiations going on, no decisions were made whatsoever. So what we wanted was your permission and that’s what we had the shift meeting because people can come out to shift meetings. We had over 250 people -- which is 24:00almost 20% of our membership -- which is pretty good response on just a shift meeting. So, uh, and they have given us permission and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sit down; we’re going to negotiate with the company on the continuous operation. That don’t mean that we’re saying “Yes, we want a continuous operation,” what we’re saying is, “We’ll listen to you and we’ll take your story back to our members and we’ll let you know exactly what they’ll say.” We’ll have a vote on it at the time when all the negotiations are done. It will be up -- in the end it’s going to be our membership and not the working people -- but the membership of our union will be the only people who get to vote on this. So you need to talk with the people and say, “Look, if you really care what goes on one way or the other or if you want to have any involvement about what kind of system is set up, if there are ones set up, you better sign a membership card and make your vote count, because the members will be the only people that actually vote on this serious, serious situation” because, you know, we have to think we’ve asked questions about the older people -- what happens to the older people if you do 25:00go on a longer than 8-hour shift? Uh. What happens with the kids, you’ve got to pick up to babysitter, they have to be taken to schools. There are a lot of things that we’ve got to talk out. (break in video) So and the reason I’m going through that, we are having planning committees every Tuesday after shift change. Now I won’t be here this Tuesday; I’ll be here for the third shift meeting, but for the first and second, I’ll be gone. Roosevelt and I are -- we’re going up to -- well we had an election last year we didn’t -- the company broke so many laws that the Labor Board is making them have it again. So what we’re doing -- we’re going up there. Roosevelt and I are going up next Tuesday so I won’t be here so Angie and Ernest have agreed to sit in on the 1st shift meeting. The 2nd shift we’re not going to have a meeting but the 3rd shift meeting I’ll be here for. So and then the following week Angie, Roosevelt and Don are coming on up and they’ll be up there for a week, all but Roosevelt and Roosevelt’s going to be out the duration of the campaign. Uh, 26:00and let’s see -- unless there’s any questions on anything I covered, that’s all I’ve got. Are there any questions on anything I’ve covered? Anything new anybody wants to bring up? Anything at all?

M2: Reese, is Macy going to be at the meetings?

REESE: No. No, he won’t be at those. He’ll be at the negotiations; he’ll be the spokesman for the negotiations but he won’t be at the shift meetings Tuesday, though. But we are going to have these meetings every Tuesday. We want to do what we can to get people to come down there. For these meetings, you know, what they’re for is so you can come down and let us know, “Look, I know if they want a continuous operation, I’d like to see this in it or I’d like to see this.” In other words, when we vote for a continuous operation, yes or no, we want to make sure that it’s the best operation we can get, the best continuous operation. We don’t want to just say, “That’s what everybody has told us.” We don’t want to just say “No, we don’t want 27:00nothing at all.” We want to hear exactly what they say and we’ll make an intelligent decision on what we know about it. So come down to these meetings and let us know exactly what you want in there. If it’s something about holiday pay, something about when the shifts should start or whatever. And even if --(break in video) we had a shift meeting the other day. There will be another meeting set up but I don’t know when. As soon as we find out we’ll let you know.

F2: Will it be Tuesday?

REESE: Well we need to have one put up, there’s not one put up. You need to talk it up inside there. We want to get people from each department. The smaller the meeting, the longer its spread out, the better it is. We can get more information.

ANGIE: Thank you, Reese. Just like people said, (inaudible) they are saying right now that finishing won’t be on continuous operation but once they get it in, (inaudible) so we might as well get in here and get all we can and get as 28:00best as we can so we can work with them. Is there any old business? New business? If not, do we have a motion to adjourn?

M2: Motion.

M3: Second.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Thank you very much folks.

[28:30 -- Meeting adjourned and people were talking as they exited]