Joe Jacobs, Roy Wade, Don Rodgers, Angie Rodgers Interview 2

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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 GEORGE STONEY: OK, Joe? OK, fellows.

DON RODGERS: You know, Joe, during some of our organizing, even today when we call on older people, they’ll give us stories of when the union came back in the ’30s and during the textile strike to help the people out and when it was over a lot of people were telling us that the union just packed up and left town and left them stranded.

ROY WADE: Yeah, I heard that myself several times and some -- when I was visiting some people, some workers in the last organizing drive.

JOE JACOBS: How about you?

ANGIE RODGERS: Yes, I was in a campaign this summer and the people were telling me about an organizing drive that our union had and they’d say that our union packed up and left them. And, you know, it’s just pretty much the same thing. People feel that a union will leave them.

JACOBS: Well, you know, it’s remarkable how that kind of thing is told and it 1:00becomes like a legend, I say. But the proof and the truth of it is that we didn’t pick up and leave them and the reason I say that is because those few of us who are still left, we can tell about it, and the documents speak even louder than that. And let me show you some of the things that I think are interesting and it applies particularly in Alabama, in Georgia, and in the Carolinas, which was where the real strike was at. When the strike was called off, Gorman got all of his people together and said, when the folks are supposed to return to work if there are any complaints, file complaints with the National Labor Board as they call it. It was called a National Textile Board. And here are just a few of the papers that I got together to show you how we tried to do it and how we did not walk off and leave. When the people returned to work and they were stopped at the gates and they had any complaint about not being put 2:00back on the job, why they came in and signed affidavits, signed papers, signed statements and we then sent letters. The way the most of the letters were sent was by a man named Hollihan who was in charge of the strike out of the Atlanta office under Frank Gorman. For example, the man who set it up for the regional office of the labor board was a man named Frank Coffee and here in October, that’s October 17th this one is, right after the strike was called off in September, it was at the end of September, he was writing a list of names of plants where there was discrimination, where he got that information from our international man, John Dean, who was over in Birmingham, Alabama, and John Dean was quite a character. He went all up and down that state, got more affidavits, hundreds of people. Here’s a list of, oh, there’s almost a dozen mills. 3:00You see the different places? Dwight, Aniston, Haleyville, Fayette, Stevenson, [Comer?] Mills. Here we go again. Clarksdale, Clark Thread Company, Atlanta Woolen, Porterdale Mill, Bibb Manufacturing, that’s where two people were killed in Bibb. And the Bibb people, by the way, in all of the places that they were at, when the people came to the gate they either told them go on down the road, we don’t need you, your jobs have been filled. And the thing that compounded it, the thing that was worst of all was at the same time that they were doing it, they began to evict our people. In other words, they would give them notice and they had never done this. Some people had been in these houses for years and years and years. They were evicting them even when they didn’t have people to fill the houses.

ROY WADE: They just showed up at the door and thrown them out.

JACOBS: And we -- that’s right. And we were having to answer these complaints and I -- we would be sending them into Atlanta, we’d be sending the complaints into Washington, and very little was done. It took us 4:00months before we had the first hearing. Take a look. Here’s another one October 9th. Here’s discrimination filed by [Petry?], Secretary of the Georgia Federation of Labor, besides the ones that were on the staff that were helping out. Here’s a man who was secretary of the Georgia Federation of Labor. George Googe, who was the regional director of the AF of L. He was helping out. Goodyear Mills in Cedartown, Georgia. Goodyear Mills up in Atco and I’m going to tell you a little story about that later of an incident that I was involved in up there. Here’s one on October 4th, Bibb Mill, Macon, Georgia; Bibb Mill, Macon, Georgia. Here’s another, Payne City Mill, Macon, Georgia. Another Bibb Mill, all of these. Newnan was another one of them and these are all different dates, October 4th, October the 11th, Adams Mills, High Points, this is up in the other end. Again, all of these, you just see how -- 5:00who they’re signed by?

WADE: By Frank Coffee.

JACOBS: By Frank Coffee. See there? Here’s Bibb Mill, [Ospree?], Porterdale again. Here’s Cannon Mill number six, Concord North Carolina. You’ve heard of Cannon Mill I noticed.


JACOBS: Look at the names of the people attached to it. There must be 50 names there on what stationary? United Textile Workers of America stationary. Here’s a communication from the -- from Coffee to the Textile Labor Relations Board in Washington, setting out again Alabama cotton mills, Russellville. Here’s the two Newnan mills, one and two. See that? Here’s the Cannon Mill’s Social Circle, Georgia, Goodyear Plant, Atco, Georgia. All of these are all over. You noticed North Carolina, Tennessee, there’s up at Knoxville, the Brookside Mills. All over the signature of Coffee. How did he get them? He got them through complaints that were filed by the staff of the United 6:00Textile Workers who were trying to help the people. Here’s one on October 8th. Again, Goodyear Mills, Piedmont Processing, Anchor Mills in Huntersville, Aniston over across in Alabama. October the 8th, and that’s within two weeks after the strike was over, here we’re getting detailed that we’re sending in, and this on the stationary of the United Textile Workers. You’ll see some names here you’ll recognize. Emma [Reavy?] who was then on the executive council of the old UTW. Here’s Frank Gorman. Here are the details on Rome, Georgia; Gadsden, Alabama; Albertville. Here’s one signed by Homer West, secretary of Local 2093. All of these were reports from the locals, Local 1878, JP [Holliman?], Gadsden. Here’s some more. Over the signature of Frank 7:00Gorman. Stevenson, Alabama. Let’s go further.

WADE: And all of these when the union was documenting discrimination because --

JACOBS: Right. Here is a telegram for examining. Remember I told you John Dean was a representative over in Alabama? Here’s a telegram being sent on October 9th. It says, “Will you permit Frank Coffee of the Atlanta Regional Board to immediately hold hearings in Albertville and Guntersville on the discrimination case I’ve discussed this matter with Mr. Coffee. With your consent he will be glad to assist us in this urgent matter.” We never had that hearing for months, and months, and months, and months. Here is a letter from Coffee again to Mr. Squires and Mr. Squires was the executive director and he sends a list of 18 plants. This is October 28th that were listed in the letter of October the 18th of strikers who were supposed to be taken back to work and he says that he would have a man in Knoxville sometime next week to do some work on it and then 8:00he puts the whole list of them -- there’s 18 of them. All of these in the Knoxville area. You notice a bunch of them -- hosiery mills --

WADE: Yeah.

JACOBS: -- knitting mills.

WADE: Knitting mills.

JACOBS: Standard Coosa Thatcher, one of the great big ones up there. Peerless Woolen Mill, Richmond Spinning and the rest of -- Chickamauga Knitting Mills. So you’d say well that’s just at the beginning of it. You know, this is in October, right? Here’s again October the 4th, look at the list of the names that were written. Here’s one October 3rd, look at the list of the names that were written. And then here’s the detail behind the names. Again, October -- here’s one as early as September the 28th.

DON RODGERS: Right after --

JACOBS: September the 28th, this was written by Hollihand. See it? OK. Let’s move it further. October the 24th. I just want you to see how they 9:00keep running. September, October, October, more in October, and this is everybody trying to get back everybody -- here’s a Trion Mill where some people were also killed up the line there and during the strike. Here’s another letter from Hollihan again in October where they’d refused to reinstate somebody at the Bibb Manufacturing Company over in Porterdale. Look at the list. Here’s all of Porterdale people, page after page after page after page after page. That’s a lot of folks and we had to interview them.

ANGIE RODGERS: Why is it that you think that they were saying that the union ran off and left them? Was it because it took so long or is it that --

JACOBS: It’s two things, Eileen. Number one, because it took so long to get hearings and we kept begging for hearings and begging for them and number two, 10:00when they did get hearings they didn’t do anything for us. Our people were already being starved out, our people were being evicted. We didn’t get them back to work and the very few that we got back to work were the ones who either had not been on the picket line or the ones who they felt that they could domineer or that they would be -- not be for the union in the future.

WADE: And all these people were only asking for what they’d been promised.

JACOBS: That’s right.

WADE: They would be discriminated against after the strike.

JACOBS: That’s correct. And here in letter after letter after letter after letter and this goes into October the 25th, and then I wanted to show you here what I thought was -- might be interesting. And here’s a letter from the executive director of the Textile Labor Board, October -- the end of October 25th, 1934 to George Googe saying, “I’m requesting the Atlanta Regional Labor Board to cooperate with you in the handling of complaints against the 11:00mills in Atlanta.” Here’s another telegram from Squires to the regional board here. “Chickamauga, Georgia is evicting workers in whose case is before you. Please investigate.” This is almost a month later after the strike and they’re throwing the people out and they haven’t done anything. Here’s a letter from Squires again to Coffee saying, “I request you assist in the handling of the most difficult textile situations in Georgia. Stop. I advise Mr. Googe that your facilities will prevent this.” In other words, they’re supposed to help us but they hadn’t got the places to do it, haven’t got the people, haven’t got the hearing officers. Here’s another one that they’re evicting some people up at the Chickamauga Bleachery. Here is one from Squires, who’s the top man, to Coffee, who’s the man here. He says, “The Textile Labor Relations Board has arranged for the National Labor Relations Board to 12:00refer complaints involving textile workers to the regional boards when this procedure will facilitate adjustment. We appreciate this cooperation.” Then he says, “In handling cases of complaints referred by this board, the regional boards will act in the capacity of an investigating and conciliating agency and attempt to bring about and adjustment by joint consent.” Our people are starving, our people are being evicted and listen to the namby-pamby language. “Before a formal hearing is undertaken, it is requested that this board be advised as to the specific nature of the complaint and the result of the investigation. Should this board decide a formal hearing and should the regional board be in a position to undertake to conduct it, the regional board will not be authorized to make the decision, but will be requested to transmit to this board a transcript of the evidence together with an expression of opinion as to what the decision should do.” And that meant that we would have to wait not only in 1934, but in the spring and in the summer and in the fall of 13:001935 before some of these cases were heard and before they were taken care of, and in the meantime, our people were getting all of this material together and working with our folks getting it together through the local unions and through the staff. Let me show you some other things. Here is one of the Exposition Cotton Mill in Atlanta, Georgia, where the lady wrote a letter and they wouldn’t let her come back to work and she was over 35 and what they were doing was that the few people that they had brought back in were the younger people rather than the ones who were over 35 or had seniority. Here’s a file on the Exposition Cotton Mill again, and this refers to a letter in December. This was written in December of the year and then it was never -- it was never 14:00handled. I can never find any papers where it shows it was ever handled, setting out why they had turned them down. Let me see if I can find this one with Charlie Bergman. This is an example. I could -- if we look through the files we can find a lot more. This is Exposition Cotton Mill in Atlanta, OK? And this is the conclusion that was drawn by the hearing officer and this is dated in April of 1935. Remember I told you how long it took?

DAN RODGERS: So it’s been six months already.

JACOBS: That’s right. And this is a hearing recommended. See what it says? A hearing is recommended. And that’s what they recommend at that time and he tells -- he gives some detail. Let me give you a little detail of it. The Exposition Cotton Mill, there was a complaint by our Local number 2199 that they 15:00didn’t let -- take them back and they discriminated against them. Charlie Bergman was the examiner. Charlie Bergman was a lawyer in Atlanta. He was in the law office of a firm called Herbert Haas and they represented primarily management people later on. But anyway, he was the hearing officer. The union was represented by S.A. Hollihan, organizer. The hearing was on -- in May of 1935. Does that sound like we had left town?


JACOBS: Still around. Hollihan represented -- the company was represented by Morris Brandon, the firm of Brandon, Hines, and [Tindale?]. I should tell you that that law firm also represented the First National Bank in Atlanta and some other of the banking institutions over there. Anyway, after the evidence that was introduced, the Textile Labor Relations Board now promulgates the following. And then they showed that they were under the code and the week ending of 16:00August 31st, 1934 the mill employed 765 workers. It was closed form the 4th of September, reopened on the 25th. There was some picketing. There was no violence, no disorder. Here it is. On September 24th all workers were advised they would resume operations the following morning, that was when the strike was called off. Seven hundred and sixty-six worked on the day of the reopening including all complainants except two who were in jail. They had put two of them in jail.

STONEY: Joe, could you go back on that and explain a little more clearly that this was the finding after this, because I didn’t get that when I was listening to it.

JACOBS: All right.

STONEY: And also, just keep in mind I’m as an audience is wondering where was Joe Jacobs during all this time? So, do those two things.


JACOBS: All right. I wanted to show you this one here which is a hearing of the -- or finding on the Exposition Cotton Mill that was brought by complaints of the union and that was 2199. Who brought the complaint? The union did. How did we bring the complaints? We brought the complaints by interviewing the people and talking with them and getting affidavits and making sure that they would be witnesses when it came. Who appeared in the hearing? At the hearing at that time, which was held by Charles Bergman who was a lawyer. He came out of a law firm of Herbert Haas. They were a commercial law firm. Who represented the union? Steve Hollihan. Sound like we left town? Couldn’t have left town. Why did Hollihan represent them? Steve Hollihan felt that he had to be the one that appeared in the hearings. People like myself worked with 18:00him and helped him get the affidavits together. We not only helped get the affidavits together but we trained the people who were the presidents and the secretaries of the local union. That was part of the work that I had to do at that time for them, hundreds of them.

WADE: And Hollihan was (inaudible) in the workers before the Textile Labor Relations Board.

JACOBS: That’s correct. Who was representing the company? Morris Brandon. That law firm Brandon, Hines, and Tindale represents First National Bank in Atlanta. Did at that time. Represents other big institutions like that. This was against the Exposition Cotton Mill in Atlanta. At the hearing -- I cannot remember now whether I was there or not, but I sat in on so many of the hearings. Steve handled them all. If Steve didn’t do it George Googe did it, either one of the two of them. Now, what were the facts in it? In the week ending October 31st, 1934, there 19:00were 765 workers. The mill was closed during the strike, September 1 through the 25th. On the 24th all the workers were advised the mill would be resuming operation. That was when Frank Gorman called the strike off to report to the job. On the day of the opening all of them went back in except two who were in jail. Now, subsequent to that the company claimed that because of the general strike they had to lay off people. In December 300 of our people work and not 766. The reason I’m pointing this one out is, and I’ll tell you in just a couple of minutes, they claimed that in January, February, and March business picked back up. At that time there were more people than were working at the time of the strike. After they called people back, here’s the production records that we were able to get together. We had sneaked these out of the mill 20:00through some of our people who were helping us build a case. Of those who were complaining, ten of our people appeared as witnesses. We showed 39 people who had been discharged. Of those 39 people a lot of them had already gotten frightened. A lot of them had disappeared. A lot of them couldn’t come. A lot of them had moved away or moved with their families and then some of the cases were withdrawn. The company agreed that two of the complainants were only laid off. Now they claim they laid them off, they just didn’t [file?] -- let them go completely. And they would be returned to work when business improved but they never would say when. Eight of them were discharged for various reasons and several of them were evicted from the mill houses. And I want to stop for a moment. That was part of our trouble, too. While we were getting all these affidavits we’re fighting trying to stop these evictions. I was in 21:00more of what I call magistrate court than you could believe trying to postpone the -- for the union, putting off the evictions, trying to keep them from throwing them out. A lot of places it was just like talking to the stone wall because the mill had some more influence than we did and they would throw the people out. The magistrate would rule with them. Here’s what they said about the ones that were discharged. One of them was the president of the union, just by coincidence. You know, always coincidence. The secretary of the union, L.W. Wiley and then [Hammet?] and his wife. They claim that they were all charged with being drunk.


JACOBS: Being drunk. They’re just [framed?]. That’s all. These are the offenses of Lee and Wiley. Now listen to this carefully. The offenses of Lee and Wiley occurred after their discharges. They claim the man and his wife were 22:00drunk on the job, but Lee and Wiley they said got drunk afterwards. The president and the secretary of the union got drunk off the job and the company fired them.

WADE: Yet, they’d been told they were fired because they were drunk on the job.

JACOBS: That’s right. Now, listen further. None of these people were arrested. None of them had created any disorder. There was no showing as to the extent of their alleged intoxication. We showed that there were many workers who drank on occasion and it was not considered a serious offense. As a matter of fact, as I remember it they showed in that hearing and in others, that the company had hired people who they had fired for being drunk long before the strike, hadn’t hired them back, but when they wanted to scab or break the strike, they hired them back and here they’re firing officers of the union for that. Look further. They claim that Nesbit Spark was in a fight during the strike and was given permission to remain away from work for a couple of weeks 23:00to allow his wounds to heal. On returning he was told by his overseers “I’ve got orders not to work anymore.” He later learned that his discharge was a result of the fight which occurred outside of the mill village. Had nothing to do with the strike. Nothing at all. In other words, what they were doing was taking any kind of a reason to fire these people.

DON RODGERS: Wow, they were really looking hard for --

JACOBS: And now -- listen to this. Two people were laid off because of curtailment (inaudible). The union presented a list of 120 new workers hired since the strike. The company admitted that 24 of them had never previously worked at the mill but claimed that the rest of the 96 that worked previously, although they gave no dates of employment for these new hands, and it appears that some of them was hired to do the same kind of work that the complainants had done. When the work increased in January and February and March, the company had an opportunity to reinstate them, but did not do it then and did not express any willingness to do so. [Ora?] Smith, that’s another one of our 24:00complainants, was transferred from the spinning filler to the spinning on a warp and another worker was placed on the old job. Two -- she and two other workers objected because they wanted to stay on their same machines. They were told to either do it or get out, and they left. Later on two of them came back. That meant that they were willing to come back regardless. They were reinstated. It was not clear from the evidence whether she applied for reinstatement. She claims she was discharged. The company had two people who came -- who appeared and said that they would be given work as soon as the business conditions warranted it. What was his conclusion? The evidence is not sufficient to prove discrimination against Ora Smith. They say if she was discharged that while the other two workers were reinstated, discrimination is evident. The company says she was only laid off. The reasons offered for discharge on the others are 25:00insufficient to establish good faith in management. Since the strike management has instituted an application system requiring them to show whether they’re members of the union. Up until that time you didn’t have to sign that you were a member of the union. But after the strike they put it on the cards. And they had an ECM fellowship club that had been organized since the strike, company union, company union. This is supposed to show good faith, you know. Come on back, no discrimination, we won’t fight anything else. The remarks of mill officials reveal management’s hostile attitude towards the union. The nine complainants listed below should be placed -- doesn’t say put back to work -- should be placed on a preferential list for reinstatement when employment for which they can qualify is available. And then he says, probably 26:00Ora Smith should also be included and he puts the president and the secretary and all the other people on and you know what happened. He says put them on a preferential list and the preferential list never came around the next year and the next year and the next year.

WADE: Even after all of this overwhelming evidence that the company was --

JACOBS: That’s right.

WADE: -- violating their rights.

JACOBS: Right.

DON RODGERS: So the government didn’t have any power to do it?

JACOBS: The board really didn’t have any power because the textile manufacturer’s association had apparently made up their mind that they were going to discriminate against the people and if you’re going to make us put them back, you’ve got to go to court and they didn’t have any power in court. It was set up as sort of a mediation conciliation. Here’s the list of the people that we submitted in the hearings. This is part of work which I did, which Steve Hollihan did, which George Googe did, which all the organizers did 27:00and all of it was documented and all of it was put in.

STONEY: Talk about where these documents come from. Tell them.

JACOBS: All right. These documents come from the National Archives. The National Archives is a government depository of the different agencies of the board when they get a certain amount of papers they file them with the agency and then after they get a certain number of years old they put them in these archives. And if you go digging, you can find these things and they tell the story. In other words, what I’m saying now is when we say that the union did not leave the people, you don’t have to take our word. Here are the papers that show it. Let me read one more thing here --

STONEY: OK, go ahead.

JACOBS: -- if I can from the file. This is a man named Toliver. Now W.H. Toliver was an investigator for the textile labor board. He came out of 28:00Charlotte, North Carolina and here’s a letter that he wrote to the textile board about the Exposition Cotton Mills and this is a letter that he wrote back in October of ’34. Remember, we didn’t have that hearing until way over into May. In October of ’34 he had one report. Here’s a letter of November 5th, 1934. I want you to hear what he says. This is not the union talking. This is an investigator for the board who’s trying to find out if the mills are living up to the agreement that they made or whether they have double-crossed Roosevelt like we say they did. He says, “In my preliminary report in October the complaint outlined from the workers’ standpoint that even though the mill was running at a reduced capacity, union members were being discriminated and were refused their positions. On that date the executives of the mill was out of Atlanta but in a conference with him on November the 1st” 29:00-- and this is written November the 5th -- “he emphatically denied that any of his former employees were being discriminated against because of union affiliations. He stated that when the strike was called off, invitation was extended to all of the former employees to return to work and all of them did so with the exception of two who were in jail because of communistic activities.”

WADE: That’s why they was placed in jail?

JACOBS: They found in the hearing they had been in a fight away from the mill and they say that they were in jail because of communistic activities. Go further. “His payrolls and records further show that since the strike 14 employees have been discharged for various reasons but none because of the fact they belonged to the union. He further stated that when the mill resumed operations they took back two of the loyal officers of the union, but that one of them was still at work and the other had been laid off because of 30:00insufficiency.” You remember the nine people who were laid off? One of them was the secretary and one of them was the president? And originally when the one was sick and they let him come back, they then laid him off. Now they say it was because of insufficiency of work and there was no discrimination against him. In the trial the examiner found that they --