Near Burlington in Alamance County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Before the First World War, workers most commonly protested by quitting and moving. Since mills faced ongoing labor shortages, entire families could relocate and find work easily. During the War, demand for textiles grew and the industry prospered. To entice workers to meet ever growing demands, owners offered good hours, bonuses, and raises. When the War ended and demand for southern textiles dropped, mill owners cut pay, laid off workers, and forced those who remained to do more work for equal or less pay.
Losing their wartime gains, many mill workers became angry and dissatisfied. Some
There’s no charge to join up. We’ve got nothing to lose and maybe something to gain.
An Anonymous North Carolina mill worker
Folks can talk all they want to about their right to join a union but right don’t count much when money is against you.
Clara Williams, worker at Cone Mills, Greensboro, North Carolina
Neighbors who had relied on each other for mutual support and friendship, often found themselves at odds over whether or not to join a union. Those who became members had hard feelings toward those who continued working during strikes. Workers who decided not to join blamed those who did for causing upheaval and unrest.
In 1929, mill employees in Gastonia, North Carolina, expressed their worry and anger about layoffs by joining unions and going on strike. Over the spring and summer of that year, mill owners, aided by the state militia, evicted strikers from the mill villages. Confrontations between police and protesters mounted,
Worker unrest continued into the 1930’s although many saw great promise in President Roosevelt’s emerging New Deal programs. However, mill owners found ways to subvert measures like the new minimum wage, and the Great Depression showed no signs of relenting. Fueled by these injustices, 500,000 textile employees across the country took part in the General Strike of 1934. The strike lasted more than two months before the union finally relented. Workers who had participated soon found themselves unemployed, and organized labor never again mounted such a large campaign in the South. For the next half-century, mill workers spoke little of the events of 1929 and 1934, preferring to maintain their silence and keep their jobs.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Civil Rights • Industry & Commerce • Labor Unions • Settlements & Settlers • War, World I. A significant historical year for this entry is 1929.
Location. 36° 8.302′ N, 79° 25.667′ W. Marker is near Burlington, North Carolina, in Alamance County. Marker is on Glencoe Street, on the left when Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Burlington NC 27215, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Living in a Mill-Centered World (here, next to this marker); Cotton Dust and Poverty (here, next to this marker); A Legacy of Community (here, next to this marker); The Rise of the Textile Mill Communities (here, next to this marker); After the Whistle Blows (a few steps from this marker); Working the Shift (a few steps from this marker); Calling the Mill Village 'Home' (within shouting distance of this marker); Women in the Mill Village (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Burlington.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . . Ella Mae Wiggins. This webpage contains a biography of Wiggins, a photo and one of her textile strike ballads. (Submitted on July 30, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Graham, North Carolina.)
Additional keywords. Alamance Cotton Mill, Glencoe, Fabric, Textiles, Company Shops, Holt,
Credits. This page was last revised on November 30, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 20, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Graham, North Carolina. This page has been viewed 1,044 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on July 20, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Graham, North Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.