Union Election Night and L.C. Wright Interview

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(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F1: [Hey woman?], (inaudible).

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F1: Yes.

GEORGE STONEY: Fair enough, you’re the fellow who’s speaking.

M1: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible).

M1: (inaudible).

(break in viseo)

M1: (inaudible).

F1: (inaudible).

M1: So yeah, [yesterday we wanted to do a picture on this camera around here, man?].

F1: He’s probably way back around (inaudible).

F2: Like the --

(break in video)

1:00

(break in video)

F3: (inaudible).

M2: You can say it any time you want to say it.

F3: I’ll sing it, somebody get some spirit in me.

M3: Get it.

M2: Hang on, (overlapping dialogue; inaudible). But first we got to -- first we got to get eight observers, and uh, because there’s some [count?], Cynthia(inaudible) are you ready to do some counting?

F4: I can, but --

M2: You’re not? Patty, you ready to count?

F5: Yeah boy.

M2: All right, come on down here so I know that you’re (inaudible) one. All right, down slowly on this one. Uh, Emily in here? How about uh, Marty?

F6: (inaudible).

M2: You got me an observer, go help us through the counting, we need seven more. Seven more.

M3: It’s a tough job.

M2: It’s a tough job.

F4: We can do it.

F5: Yes, we can.

F4: Yes we can.

F7: Yes we --

2:00

M2: All right. Charlie (overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

M3: (inaudible).

M4: I was an alternate observer.

M3: OK, come on down, come on down.

M2: Come on down if you’re going to count.

M3: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) checking first.

M2: We prefer checkers, checkers. People who were checking.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

M2: OK, we got three.

M3: What’s your name?

JIMMY WOODRUFF: Jimmy Woodruff.

M: Jimmy Woodruff?

WOODRUFF: Woodruff.

M2: Peggy George, Carl (inaudible). Hey, Henry Owens. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible). Delores, you want to count?

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

M3: All right, hold on here.

M2: Hold on, that’s it.

F2: That’s it.

M2: (inaudible). Call (inaudible).

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

M3: OK, (inaudible). OK. Sorry, no, sorry. (inaudible).

3:00

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F2: I had to get it, too. (laughter) (inaudible) to get it, too. You know, (inaudible).

M5: Dolores [Gambrel?], (inaudible). Hey. Dolores Gambrel is going to have to be one of them. She’s got (inaudible). She’ll (overlapping dialogue; inaudible). All right, let me (inaudible). Take [Jordan?]. Jimmy Woodrow. Tom [Ford?]. Dolores Gambrel is not here right now. Shirley Hamilton. Laurie [Rushmire?] and (inaudible). Yeah, (inaudible). I admit, I skipped over it.

F4: Just skipped over it.

M5: Yeah. I looked. We’re going to have a union staff person act as a counter behind to keep track and sort of watch the process. Now you know most of our staff people, they’ll -- they’ll have a -- a pad and a little thing that they’re going to be counting on, and we’re going to be pretty identifiable, and then we’ll try to keep the thing going (inaudible). So 4:00they’ll be like, right behind us, so if there’s any issues or anything, (inaudible) all right?

(break in video)

M5: Yeah no, they’re -- don’t -- don’t worry, the way it’s done, there’s no chance for them to miscount or screw up or mess up or cheat us. That’s not going to happen. All right, we -- that’s why we’re going to -- you --

F8: (inaudible).

M5: Yeah.

F8: -- less than 50 on our staff.

M5: No, no, you don’t have to worry about that. Because the way -- this is like, they’re going to be -- they’re standing over there saying how do we know that the union’s not going to (inaudible) less than 50. Because the labor board’s going to be counting the stacks, you’re going to be counting the stacks, they’re going to be counting the stacks, and we’re going to have a staff person count the stacks. There’s no way it’s going to get cheated here. (inaudible) hearts and minds here. Right?

F8: Right.

M2: Hey y’all.

M5: We’re not going to get cheated.

M2: Parking, one more time, we’re parking, (inaudible) the Main Street gate. You get there, don’t head nowhere, you wait, we get all together, everybody gets there, (inaudible) car, [block them up?], and then (inaudible). Then 5:00we’ll head on into the plant. So, we’re waiting about four and a half minutes, so uh, let’s uh, make sure we’ve gotten who we’re riding with together. You’d be surprised, I’ve been over there tonight, so I know how many parking places are there, so I know what I’m talking about. You want to enter the room (inaudible).

M6: (inaudible).

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

(laughter)

F4: We need to figure out who’s riding with all of us.

M6: (inaudible).

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F4: It’s true.

6:00

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F9: Yeah, they’re your [grandchildren?]. (inaudible).

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F10: [Sherry?]. (laughter)

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

(break in video)

F: Let’s go.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F:11 [Spit?].

F12: Time to rock and roll. (laughter)

F13: I’m right behind you, sugar.

7:00

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F14: See you later.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

M6: Oh no, no, I ain’t -- we’re coming right back, (inaudible). All right?

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

F15: Everywhere we go.

CROWD: Everywhere we go.

F15: People want to know.

CROWD: People want to know.

F15: Who we are.

CROWD: Who we are.

F15: So we tell them.

CROWD: So we tell them.

F15: We are the union.

8:00

CROWD: We are the union.

F15: Mighty, mighty union.

CROWD: The mighty, mighty union.

F15: Mighty!

CROWD: Mighty!

F15: Mighty.

CROWD: Mighty.

F15: Mighty.

CROWD: Mighty.

F15: Mighty, mighty union.

CROWD: Mighty, mighty union.

F15: Union.

CROWD: Union.

F15: What do we want?

CROWD: Union.

F15: When do we want it?

CROWD: Now!

F15: All right.

(applause and cheering)

M7: Union time! What time is it?

CROWD: Union time!

M7: What time is it?

CROWD: Union time.

M7: All right. Woo!

F15: Ride up.

M7: Let’s go get one. All right!

F15: Let’s go get one. (laughter)

(break in audio)

JUDITH HELFAND: You were saying that -- I -- I told you that, can you hold it for a second, Jamie? One of --

L.C. Wright: These people (inaudible) stand up (inaudible).

HELFAND: Can you say -- can you start that again? It takes a lot of courage, you said?

L.C. WRIGHT: Yeah. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of backbone to stand up 9:00to this company here, and the people that has gone out here and worked for this union, they’re winners, it don’t make no difference how the vote turns out, they’re winners, because uh, they have stood up and the company will respect them for standing up, because they have learned what their rights is. The company don’t respect people that don’t know what their rights is. And uh, when people knows what their rights is under the Constitution of the United States, big business is scared of them in the South, because um, it takes courage to stand up and say I need my rights, and I want my rights, and I don’t want you to violate them.

M8: I’d like to say something about that, go back to today, you know, what’s happened in Russia. These people got a taste of freedom, and everything, and then when they had it taken away from them, they stood up for themselves, and this is what these people are doing here, are standing up for their rights.

10:00

HELFAND: Now, before, we were -- we were talking, and I want you to chime in with this conversation about, you were talking about the older generation, and that their experiences, in -- in a great many cases, has made it difficult for them to embrace the union. And the younger people have had a more easier time. Could you talk about those differences, and talk about um, you were telling -- you were -- you were talking about the older people, and you were giving me examples of why they might be frightened, and um, uh, (inaudible).

F16: Well, OK. Uh, well I have been in there with every vote they’ve had, except this one. And I retired. But the older people would come near not voting, because they uh, oh I’m sorry.

HELFAND: That’s OK. Start your thought, go ahead.

11:00

F16: (laughter) I was afraid I might do that. But, they put such scare tactics on people. See, when I was in there, I thought all of the union people were mean, because what -- that’s what they lead me to believe. But see now that I’m out here working with the union, I know, I have never been around any bunch of people any nicer, and I know they’re working to try to help those people in there. But -- but the older people, see if they stand up, they’re getting to the age close to retirement. Well say the union don’t go in, then they won’t have a job. And then they’ll be out, and well, you get up 55, you -- you -- you’re not as likely to get a job anywhere else.

HELFAND: Now, the three of you, you’re all retired from the mill. And I want you to talk about that, and what has come -- what has -- what -- what happened to all three of you that made you decide to -- to stand up and join the struggle?

12:00

M8: Well, I think uh, all three of us got involved in this because the pension plan. Now the union came in here, now we -- we can’t pay the union money, and we can’t vote for them. But yet the union came in here, and helped us to get back [everything?], got a lawyer in California for us, and they have sent two men, who are Jonathan Davis and uh, John -- Damon Silver down here just to work with us. And they have done a tremendous job, and we’ve got to know them. And uh, if the union can do that for poor retired people, what can they do for those who are still working? And let me say this, if um, we had had the union in ’86, when Murdock sold the plant, we never would have lost our pension, because we would have had representation then when they sold the plant. Well we 13:00-- we didn’t even know he was taking $39 million out of our pension plan. Put it in his back pocket, I’d like to do that. If I’d do that, they’d lock me up in jail. But he got away with it, and the government patted him on the back, said that’s good, take it. I would -- I don’t guess I should bring Jim Baker up in this, since --

(laughter)

M8: -- but Jim Baker, he -- people sent him his money willingly, he asked for it, and they sent it to him, and Murdock, he just went in and took it out, and didn’t say nothing to nobody. And Jim Baker’s serving 40 years. Murdock bought an island.

HELFAND: George, I know you have some questions related to this about the past, why don’t you ask them?

GEORGE STONEY: We’ve been talking with a lot of people who’ve been around in 14:00the textile business since the ’20s. And so, there’s a whole history of unionism, which most people don’t know about. When did you first know about unions in textiles?

WRIGHT: Well, I started in 1955. Um, Mr. Bob Freeman, he came down here, I don’t know whether you’re familiar with him or not, but he’s a finer gentleman than you ever meet, and a good friend. And I’m still friends with him. We visit a lot. And they teached me more about my rights than any man alive, I reckon. And uh, I count him as a true friend.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you know anything about unions in textiles before that time?

WRIGHT: No. Uh, Bob had started working with me, and we -- we kept working. In 15:001974, he came here, and we started a campaign, and we brought it to a vote in 1974. And uh, we almost won it that time.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now, it’s interesting to me that people here know all about what Mr. Cannon did, and how the mills got going, you’ve got a book that you showed me all about that. But nobody seems to know that back in the ’20s, people were trying to form a union here, and in 1934, they actually had a great big strike all over the country about that. Did you know anything about that?

WRIGHT: Well, in 1974, the company brought out plywood, and they had enough plywood plastered over the plant to build another plant with. They had the newspaper clippings and the pictures with the machine guns on the building to shoot the union organizers and things, and run them out of town. And through generations, the company has used -- has put in these peoples’ head that the 16:00union come in, and got their money, and left. Well, they didn’t have no money. And uh, they have been drilled in their head through countless things, this company (inaudible) for the last 50, 60 years.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now, it’s peculiar to me that in 1934, when the National Guard -- when the troops came here, Mr. Cannon personally called the governor and said, send them in.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: And yet, I’m around here, and it’s Jesus Christ and then uh, old man Cannon. (laughter) I -- in that order. Or maybe just the reverse. Why is that?

WRIGHT: Well, Cannon owned the town, he owned the people, he owned the houses they lived in. Uh, if you got out -- got locked up on Saturday night, you went in to see him and he decided whether you lost your job and your home or not. He had the town, he put it on a squeeze, he could squeeze you to death any time he 17:00wanted to. Uh, you know, um, you hear tell, these old plantation farmers back in the slavery time, you know, they brought the overseers in here from them plantation farms in the textile mills. And uh, that there overseer, he’s -- he was the man on the horse with the whip. And that’s the way it’s been ever since, they’ve just kept the people pushed down and afraid, they put so much fear in them that all unions was bad. And uh, people was uneducated then, but they’re getting more educated now, and they’re stretching out, more unions is moving in, and they see what they can do. If you stand up together, you can better yourself, you can raise your standard of living.

GEORGE STONEY: Now again, we’ve been talking with people in the town, and we read this local newspaper.

WRIGHT: That’s right.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, and it says that if the union comes in, people are going to 18:00get split apart. How do you feel about that?

WRIGHT: Well, I don’t feel like that at all. Uh, I feel like uh, if the union gets in, their job won’t be done. They’re going to have to build a good union here. And uh, they -- their job is just beginning with the -- if they get the election won. And uh, I feel like that they can better this town, you know, this paper here talks about scaring industry away. Well, they wouldn’t let no industry come in here for 100 years. And then they’re trying to tell us that a union would scare it away. Well uh, I can’t figure out how they think that people can swallow that there bunk -- bunk, when uh, they wouldn’t even give a chain store water rights in here, even -- to even sell stuff out of their stores and things. He had his own stores and things. All them years. But, the empire 19:00is breaking down now. And people is starting to see the light.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you have -- you worked under the Cannon time, didn’t you?

M8: Yes sir, I worked 15 years. I retired from the telephone company and went to uh, Cannon in ’75.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh. Did you grow up in this town?

M8: Yes sir, 64 years.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about the -- what it was like in the town.

M8: Well, uh, it’s just like he said, Mr. Cannon said, (inaudible) too good an example, and I can say (inaudible) that Southern Latex Corporation from Georgia, which made (inaudible) I mean, elastic, goes around, ran the building down where the telephone company was. And um, they uh, cut the water off, so they couldn’t have water. They didn’t want people coming in here. So they go 20:00outside the city limit and dig a well, and start piping the water in. And uh, when the city and Mr. Cannon were saying they wanted to kick them out, they gave them the water rights. And when Western Electric built this big plant in Charlotte, Mr. Charlie got in with the big men over there, and they had a good history about this in The Charlotte Observer, because for three weeks, there was Mr. Charlie and this man writing letters back to each other, and Charlie said you’re not coming into Cabarrus County and getting my help. And this man said, “We go anywhere we want to, and get help.” And it’s just like this. Mr. Charlie’s, what he said went. And the city and county, city aldermen, county commissioner, when Mr. Charlie came around, they started bowing to him. And uh, really we lived in that kind of life, and we didn’t know there was really much more to life than just to be overruled by Mr. Cannon.

21:00

GEORGE STONEY: How do you feel about that?

F16: Well, a lot of people really liked him, because he looked after. And then there are some that didn’t, it’s -- because there’s a lot of people that would have loved to have had a mill house, they couldn’t get a mill house. But the ones that did get what he had to offer, they really ate it up, and they thought he was great.

M8: Well, like I said, Mr. Charlie uh, he looked after his people, I guess that’s why he had (inaudible). And uh, he built the houses, and uh, when he bought this property up here, he started building the mill. But when he built the mill, he started building houses. And if he couldn’t find people here, he would go down to South Carolina and Georgia, and get families, and bring them up here and give them a mill house where he would have employees. And uh, Mr. 22:00Charlie did great work. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have as good a hospital as we’ve got here in Cabarrus County. But just like I said, there was nothing done unless Mr. Charlie said it was.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, do you -- all of you people probably remember a great deal about uh, President Roosevelt. Many people kind of looked up to him the way they looked up to Mr. Charlie, in a way.

M8: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, could you talk about Roosevelt?

WRIGHT: Well, where I was raised, and I was raised down in Anson County, one of the poorest counties in the state, and uh, when Roosevelt came in, he started up the WPA, and the CC camps, to give people work. And uh, people down there about to starve to death back under Hoover’s time, and they was raised up -- I was 23:00raised up thinking Roosevelt was the greatest man ever lived. And uh, you take down there, when I was coming up, uh, it wouldn’t do for a Republican to come out in public down there. (laughter) They’d run him out of town. It’s all Democrat down there, but now they’re changing over some, you know, they -- they got a little money on their hip, and now they think they’re rich enough to vote Republican.

GEORGE STONEY: You can take a rest, just (inaudible).

(break in video)

M8: We’ve still got to get our pensions restored 100% and get a law fashioned in Washington. Which we are trying to do.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about -- tell us about uh, how you uh, what happened with Good Morning America?

M8: Well, uh, (inaudible) I believe, T-A-G-E-S-O-N is the way it’s spelled, called home one morning and interviewed us. And he told us that he knows exactly how they was going to put us --

24:00

GEORGE STONEY: OK, let’s start again. Because we didn’t get that it was Good Morning America. Talk about that.

M8: Um, Thursday morning, excuse me, just cut a minute. (break in viseo)

GEORGE STONEY: Poor people can use television. And then we’ll go over that. OK?

WRIGHT: Well uh, poor people have got TV today that uh, when you see it live, you know what they’re going through (inaudible). They’re not censored or something, but on -- you’ve got newspapers that can take everything you say out of context, and twist it around, and make it any way they want to. But when you get on TV and it’s allowed, that’s what you say.

M8: Just like Good Morning America called my home on Thursday after hearing what Terry Safford and wanted to interview me. And uh, we talked for about 40 minutes, and uh, he -- Mr. Tageson, Tageson, uh, said that he didn’t know exactly how he was going to put -- put it on the air, and they have to wait and 25:00work it out. Well that night, I believe it was about twelve o’clock, somewhere along there, uh, the ABC satellite truck started rolling in the union hall. And the next morning, eight o’clock, they put a 30-minute program on Good Morning America. Well, we have not been able to get Mr. Murdock to the hearing or anything else. But on Monday afternoon, after Good Morning America was on, on Friday morning, Mr. Murdock called a press conference for nine o’clock on Tuesday morning. And this is when he um, told us that we were getting our 30% back, but Mr. Wright, who lost his 100%, wasn’t getting a penny. Well, uh, Charles [Caralto?], CBS, picked this up, and they got real 26:00upset about it. So, Sunday, a week ago, Charles Caralto had a big program on Sun-- uh, Sunday morning, and um, it really kicked Mr. Murdock again. And uh, on Thursday of the same week, Mr. Murdock made a press conference saying that they would get their 100% back. And so, we need to -- we need your help very badly. Because like he said, we poor people can’t do it. We need to get media, we need to get all our pensions restored, and we need to get to Washington and make them pass a bill where this can never happen again, to no one.

GEORGE STONEY: Well that’s, of course, one of the things that the union can do for you.

WRIGHT: That’s right.

GEORGE STONEY: Is to -- is to help you use (inaudible).

WRIGHT: Yeah, if uh, we could get across to everybody that the union here is 27:00just, it’s here for our good, not their good, the people is the union, and they’re here to see that their rights is not violated. If we could get them to understand that, I think they’d be all right.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Thank you.

M8: The union helped 25 poor people, I mean, a lot of poor people, (inaudible) that got it started.

WRIGHT: Thirteen thousand people their pension back.

GEORGE STONEY: Good. Thank you. OK. Take (inaudible).

(break in video)

JAMIE STONEY: OK, we’re rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, you talk about the younger generation.

F16: The younger generation, they’re not afraid to stand up. They’ll stand up and be heard, where the old -- older generation have had it pounded in their heads so long with fear of the union, until -- but -- but the younger generation are more educated, and I think this helps a lot.

GEORGE STONEY: Why did you use they instead of we?

28:00

F16: Well, I am the older generation. And I did not know how the union worked, or anything about the union, until I got out here and got involved. And I am proud that I did, because I have been educated in the last four weeks. (laughter) I know, uh, what I’ve always heard is the union people were mean, they harassed you, and all this sort of stuff. But I’ve learned that. And -- GEORGE STONEY: What --

F16: I hope that the people out there that hear this will wise up and learn.

GEORGE STONEY: What gave you the courage to try?

F16: To try the union? Well, the union, uh, reason we got involved is because our retirement was cut. And no -- we -- we called Congressmen, the Senate, and we tried to get help, nobody helped us. But we turned to the union, and the union helped us. And if it hadn’t been for them, we’d still be minus that 29:0030%, because I’m sure that Murdock wouldn’t have pulled it out of his pocket. But he’ll get that back, I feel like he’ll get it back.

GEORGE STONEY: What would your mother have said if she knew you were messing up with unions?

F16: (laughter) Well, I -- I don’t know, she’d probably say go for it, because my mother was that kind of a lady. Because she believed in something, if she was alive today, she’d say go for it, because if she believed in something, she’s like myself, she’d say she would -- she’d stand up.

GEORGE STONEY: Good. Good.