What Was It Like for African Americans?
This interview was conducted aboard a bus bound for Louisiana Downs racetrack on 6/7/91. Two busloads of retirees from Local 848 were going to the races. "Buddy" Mosly agreed to answer questions about what it was like for a Black man in the union.
Lee A. Mosly went to work for Vought Nov 15, 1948.
He hired in as a porter. Worked 18 years as that, then became painter with maintenance dept.
Picked up the 12th union card for UAW in 1949. No union at all when he hired in. Company said they could do better without union. Not a lot of fuss over it.
All of the porters were Black. All skilled trades workers were Caucasians.
He was 32 when he started. No previous union experience. Had heard of strikes, etc. in other states. "I wanted to be in a union if I could." He used to hear about John L. Lewis back on the East Coast.
Got out of military in 1946. Been overseas 2 years. Was raised in East Texas, Pittsburg. moved to Grand Prairie 1946. Worked for a construction company. Helped dig the holes for heat treat machines at Vought. He was already there, thus, when Vought was moving in their equipment. Didn't know name of company at first. Learned it was Vought and they were moving from Connecticut.
Made $1.07 1/2 cents per hour in construction. Porter for Vought made 96 cents. Figured it would pay off more later. "The main thing was that it was on the inside."
Vought brought only whites, no Black workers, from Connecticut. "I think they were all whites." Men would come through and ask about the union "trying to get your attitude about it". People argued for UAW or IAM. They passed out literature. Then they had a vote on it. UAW beat them out during 1949.
Temco local was already going. Buddy had friends in the local at Temco. He knew Sam Brown of Local 390. I A M did 't do to good in the vote. Most Blacks went for UAW. Doesn't know why.
He knew Roy Evans at that time. Evans soon became president of Local 893 at Vought. He also knew the first Black steward at Vought, Herschel Matthews. "We worked together a long time."
"One guy would get on each side of a barrel, two men dumped trash barrels." One was Herschel Matthews, the other was Buddy Mosly.
"Hershel was a big union guy. I think he was union steward." Hershel Matthews is dead, he's sure. Lived South of Ft Worth in Mansfield. Ran a club out there.
"He was really into the union." He believed in the union and he was there all the time, went to the union hall every day." He signed up a lot of members." He was tall, would weigh around 200. 6 ft tall. "Was married & had one son.
Mosly helped vote Charley Scott in as the Local's President. His friend, M.C. Shelton, started in 1949. Shelton and Mosly are both regulars at monthly retiree meetings in 1991. Shelton often leads the prayers.
Remembers Terry Purcell. "She did a lot of good work".
"The company told us they couldn't put a little pin on their badge. We put it on anyway. We wound up going out and the company told us we had so many days. They went me a letter telling me that I had 3 days to report back in, else I would be replaced."
"I stayed out"
"They settled it on the second day."
During the fight over badges, Mosly stood around in front of the plant along with all the rest of the union members.
Retired 1988, almost 40 years.
Stayed with the union all that time. "That union carried us a long ways. If it hadn't been for the union I don't know what would have happened."
Won raises, COLA, "We just started climbing."
In 1963 they got their retirement fund back, not the company's matching fund. "We didn't have to pay any more money out of our check. The company paid for the retirement from then on." After a long period of time, the company was supposed to match it. He still draws $9.12 per month from Connecticut general. They stopped the former co-pay plan during 1963 and started paying everybody off. Comes through Sigma insurance now.
He doesn't remember any negative experience with the union.
In 84-85 he remembers Loretta Bell singing "that song" in front of the gates at that time. It was "Solidarity Forever"!
He carried his dues along with Dunn York over to the union hall. He was a painter. "Quite a few of them got out. We talked to them and told them they were making a bad move." People couldn't face taking money out of their pockets to pay dues. didn't even notice it when they went to dues checkoff." He paid up every month. Never got behind. They had a pin that said "I paid my dues."
Buddy Mosly did pay his dues.
Vought Local Fought Over Badges
UAW-CIO Local 893 had a number of battles for dignity. Here is one of them:
In 1953 the union decided to add a backing to the metal employees' badges in use at that time. The company charged $5.00 to replace a lost badge; and the union's backing asked finders to return the badge to the union hall. It gave the name and address.
The company opposed having the union's name on their badges. They claimed some security rule was violated and that the pinhole needed to attach the backing was "damaging company property." They refused to let anybody into the plant with the new backing on their badge.
Local 893 UAW-CIO responded to the challenge. Union activists stood outside the gates and told the members to hold their ground. If they couldn't go in with their union name attached to their badge, they wouldn't go in at all! They stood in long lines outside the plant. Vought's factory sat idle inside.
One of the young activists that got involved was Everett Day, who later on became President of the local and President of Local 848's retirees. After a time, the company gave in and the lockout was ended. A leather backing was attached to the metal badges. It read "UAW-CIO Local 893".
The fight in 1953 generated the idea in 1991 of having our members wear "Union Proud" identification along with their employee badges.
Second President at Vought Came from Connecticut
CHARLEY SCOTT WAS THE THIRD PRESIDENT OF LOCAL 893 AT CHANCE VOUGHT IN THE EARLY 1950'S. He had been Financial Secretary of the Local and was on full time during the organizing drive that created it. Before Vought came to Grand Prairie, Brother Scott had been Chairman at Local 877, Vought-Sikorsky in Connecticut.
I met with Brother Scott and his charming wife, Rita, at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 3, 1992. Scott offered dozens of documents and photos for our Local 848 archives. He also gave his views on many of the things that have happened in the UAW.
--Gene Lantz, Archivist
UAW Local 848
Scotty still has the tool box that he brought from Connecticut to Grand Prairie in 1949. He had worked as an assembler since September 10, 1940.
One of Rita's activities is making beautiful things from stained glass.
Scotty went through his union memorabilia to find things that would help Local 848 under-stand our history. He found and donated a large number of patches, buttons, and papers that pertain to the earlier days of our local. Among his many donations are contract books from the Connecticut local, a 1946 Constitution of the CIO, a list of the first Vought officers dated Dec 20, 1949, and many other photos and papers.
In 1953 Scotty was President of UAW Local 893 at Chance Vought. He led a significant battle that won the right for union members to wear union identification along with their factory I.D. badges. He gave me one of the leather backings that Local 893 members won the right to wear.
Elaine Lantz helped interview Charley and Rita Scott. A full text of the interview is included in Local 848's archives.
Charley Scott led the Local 893 Delegation to the 1953 UAW convention. Several black and white photos from that period were donated to the local by Johnny Walsh. Herschel Matthews, an African American leader of the local; Financial Secretary Eddie Robinson,
Committeeman "Doc" Watkins; Area Director Hiram Moon; Region 5 Director Firp Letner; and union sparkplug Lou Cade are among those pictured.
Johnny Walsh was the education director at Local 893. In December of 1950, Walsh and John Aleschus started a major battle in the local. They made a leaflet with the headline "Silly Supervisors Show Signs Suggesting Senility" and passed it out on the gates at Chance Vought.
George Dull, President of the Local at that time, took exception to the leaflet as did the company. Dull tried to relieve Walsh and Aleschus of all union responsibilities. Walsh and Aleshus appealed to the membership and eventually won out.
Charles Scott started to work for Vought Sikorsky September 10, 1940. UAW Local 877 was amalgamated with a brass shop. Scotty was 23 that October. His pay was 50 cents an hour. He was scheduled for a 6 day workweek, so he received pay for 52 hours per week. He was an assembler. Scotty is 1/2 Scotch, 1/4 German, 1/4 English. He became a skilled trademan from on the job training. Went from grade 10 to grade 3.
"I've never lost an election yet" "Of course I've had a few rocks thrown at me," Scotty says.
Local 877 had about 85% of the bargaining unit as members. They held an election in 1942. The first contract brought them a 7 1/2 cent raise. Scott's salary went from 70 cents to 77 1/2 cents. "That's some pickup," he comments.
Also in 1942, Scotty married Rita. He says they will celebrate their 50th anniversary in September, 1992. The next month, Scotty will turn 75.
In 1943, Scott ran for steward at the Hollister Avenue facility. There were only 20 on the shift, he recalls. "All the girls voted for me," he remembers. At the end of World War II, Scott ran for committeeman at the main plant. He won. Then he ran for Chairman in 1947.
There were a lot of Germans at Vought. Scott explains that the Germans came to the U.S. when Hitler outlawed the unions. That's why so many ended up at Chance Vought. He had some German relatives, possibly, but Vought was also a good friend of Bill Boeing, who was also a German. Scott also recalls that Vought died from cutting his hand on Duraluminum, Dural. "Very dangerous," Scott comments.
Many of the Germans worked in experimental department, where Vought put its best workmen.
Scott believes that the many Germans who had come to escape Hitler's repression against Germans made especially devoted union members here in the United States.
Why did Vought move to Grand Prairie? Scott lived in Milford, Connecticut. He could look across and see Long Island, NY, where several other companies were. He was told at the time that Vought was moving in order to disperse military manufacturers. The Vought plant was in Stratford. Near Bridgeport.
Scott says that workers in Stratford were told that Vought was moving to Texas because the military was over-concentrated in Connecticut. He always thought there was more to it.
"When I got there they were still Navy and Marine Corps officers going around painting this and cleaning up that. "Texas had just passed the 'right to work' law." NLRB reports say "all employees".
"The new plant was much bigger than anything we had in Connecticut," he recalls. He also heard that Vought had moved because they needed longer runways to test jet aircraft. A guy ruined a test aircraft because he tried to land in their old runway. Too short. When they got to GP, they had to lengthen the runway there, quite a bit.
Vought moved its employees to Grand Prairie in waves. "First movement was September 1948, and I didn't get down until January 1949." Vought tried to keep him from going, but the UAW stood up for him and got him moved to Grand Prairie. Red Skerritt had been chairman of 877 before Scotty. He went to work for Int'l. Skerritt conferred with the company and they allowed Scott to go.
Asked about first impressions of Texas: Scott recalls getting gas for a borrowed 1947 Chevrolet. As he drove away, the station attendant yelled "Yall come back", a Southern expression that Scotty had never heard. He put his car into reverse and "came back" puzzled. He had to have the expression explained by the laughing station attendant.
Scott had been on his way to a CIO meeting on Greenwood street in Dallas. It was a house.
Rita remembers that the Northerners from Connecticut were perplexed by race relations in Texas. When Rita invited the man cutting their lawn up on the porch for some lemonade, he refused. In the certification election for a UAW local at Chance Vought in Grand Prairie, Blacks were told they would have to pay a poll tax to vote in the union. Scott says, "I went up there and told them, hey, here's the constitution." Of course they could vote!
Further on racial relations: a Black janitor in the experimental department would stop by and talk with Scott "Because I was the only white guy that would talk to him!" "And he recommended me to the Black guys." After he became the Local's president, Scotty appointed the first African American officer of the union. Eugene Lacey was the first recognized Black steward. He finally got fired. When Scotty let it be known that he planned the appointment, one of the Committeemen came into the hall and started waving around a military .45 revolver; Scotty didn't think he was threatening, but Johnny Walsh did.
The UAW was on an organizing drive at Chance Vought. When people found that Scott was former chairman they signed up, since they saw him as a union man, they sought him out in private to join the union. He remembers that he signed up 5 or 6 a day in the restrooms.
At the same time, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) was trying to organize there. Scott thinks that one thing that helped the UAW was the people who had worked with IAM organized factory at Consolidated before. The guys from Consolidated (now GD), assemblers, etc, were good for the UAW, he says. The machinists union, they felt, was "for the machinists". Consolidated plant was about 10 miles away from us. Everybody but machinists were for UAW when they got the choice.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) tried to organize the electricians, and beat the UAW out with them. "We came in second on the maintenance electricians. "I think it was because some of these guys were in the maintenance department and that's where the IAM had its strength," Scott says.
The IAM recruiting drive was thwarted by their own former members at Consolidated. IAM and UAW competed for many years in organizing drives in the aerospace industry. "We raided Consolidated at San Diego and they raided our plant at Martin Marietta," Scott says, "Each of us spent about a 1/2 million dollars and neither one ousted the other." "After that we had a 'no raid' agreement between IAM and UAW."
With the exception of the few electricians lost to the IBEW, the UAW won the drive at Chance Vought and set up Local 893. During the drive, Scott had been put on full time by the UAW International. Cornelius Moll was elected President first. In the second elections, George Dull was elected President. But the President was not a full-time officer and Financial Secretary was. Scott sought and won the office of Financial Secretary in 1950. They paid $60/week plus $10 expenses. "I was making more than both of them put together back in the plant." He had been laid off from staff Jan 9, 1950.
"I had the Blacks, I had the experimental, couple of other assembly groups of people that knew me from Connecticut." Tool and guys were mostly IAM. "I had the jig builders." A trustee from experimental organized a g...mnedest automobile parade you ever saw." 200 people in cars went down to vote for Scotty.
The union headquarters was an old bowling alley. President Dull had no office. On rt hand side of bowling alley were 4 offices. 1 for secretaries, 1 exec board, committee meetings. Other offices were removed. People had to walk down a bowling lane.
In the next annual race for union leadership, Scott beat George Dull. The next year he beat Roy Brush, a welder from maintenance. "Brush also got along with the Black guys." Scott recalls that George Dull came from a Studebaker plant in South Bend Indiana. Moll came from GM in Michigan.
On remembering the badge fight at Vought in 1953, Scott comments, "I got hell for that badge deal." But asked if he hadn't been the one who did it, he replies, "I sure as hell did. It was the best thing that ever happened to the local because we signed up a bunch of new members. "We didn't have much of a local before that."
Before the badge fight, there was a $20 assessment for the Chrysler strike in 1951 and a lot of people at Local 893 refused to pay it. There were only 63 that paid the $20 and stayed in good standing, and were thus eligible to run for office.
The Grand Prairie paper had a description of the badge fight. Look from Jan 5 to Jan 15, 1953. Here is a brief outline of it: The company charged people $5 to replace a lost badge. The union decided to put a plastic backing on the badge that told finders to return lost badges to the union hall. Thus the members would save their $5.
The company refused to let people into the plant unless they removed the union's name from the badges. Scotty declared it a lockout and stood outside the gates imploring all the members to stay out. After some time, the company gave in and allowed a leather backing with the union's name on it.
Rita remembers this about it: Scotty told her that he was going to the hall and wasn't sure when he'd be back. He reappeared again 4 days later!
Scotty remembers a woman named Lou Cade, who brought her own piano to the union hall during the fight. She played union songs. She was honored for that by being sent to the convention in 1953. She is said to be Sioux.
Cade eventually got married and quit. Bringing the piano was Cade's own idea "She didn't ask!" Scott had never said anything but "hi" to her. "She used to come in and help sweep the floor." There were several such volunteers around the union hall in those early days.
Scott remembers some of the 1953 delegation: "Herschel Matthews was elected to trustee or something. Me, Reinhardt, Bob Jennings, each of us that was running. Johnny Walsh and Lou Cade was there. She was an alternate." Johnny Walsh had given the local several photos of that delegation for our archives.
Scott loved Hi Moon, a UAW leader in North Texas since he was first elected Recording Secretary of Local 645 at North American in 1942. Scotty remembers that "He was a sad sack"
Got worse when he got to be Area director of Ft Worth. UAW used to have area directors. Ray Evans was VP under Scotty.
Another incident that Scotty remembers involves one of Texas' most prominent judges: Oscar Mauzy. The insurance company for Chance Vought Company, Liberty Mutual, would go to the hospitals with the green sheet (release). The union tried to stop them from getting our members to sign releases before they had talked to their own representatives. Liberty mutual was going to sue us. Mauzy and Moon recommended a lawyer and he talked them out of it. They stopped practice of sending green sheets to hospital. We paid our lawyer $25/month and put his name in our union paper as our recommended lawyer. That was his compensation.
Here are some of the people that Scotty remembers fondly from Local 893: Walsh, Aleyshus and Scott "made a pretty g...mned good team." Aleyshus went to Denver and Scott never heard from them again. Vandersall went to Florida.
Walter Grey, Eleanora Purcell, Joe Ivey, Frank Inman, Scotty--are all Int'l reps that came out of Local 893. Eleanora Purcell "Was a damned good union lady."
After two terms as President of Local 893, Scott went on the International Staff in organizing and servicing. His first assignment was at the Witbeck plant in Gainesville. He had many others before he finally retired in 1985. "Being an international rep is the best job for a person, but it's hell for the spouse and kids", Scotty says. He and Rita had 10 children.
Looking back on his career as an International Rep, Scott says, "I'm glad I did it" but she had to raise ten children by oherself except when I came in every coule of weeks or so." He was successful in organizing the Gainesville plant, then the company moved to Chile. Then he went to Bonham, Southwest Pump Company. Signed up 50 of 87 there.
After Bonham Scotty went to Wichita Kansas to organize the Coleman (lantern) company. Ken Worley was chief organizer. "One hard working sonofabitch". Was in organizing and service until 1965 when he got to Tulsa. Serviced Rockwell local, Fram, Webster Engineering, Valley Bolta and a couple others. Had another plant in McCalester another in Hartshorene, E of McCalester.
Scotty responded to questions about why the UAW joined, then withdrew from the AFL: Reuther led the UAW and the entire CIO into the AF of L because Eisenhower was elected. The union movement felt they could not get anywhere with Republicans. John L. Lewis, who didn't like AFL, had died by then. Around 1955, Reuther led them into AFL.
Reuther took the UAW out again in 1968. "Reuther & Meany didn't get along," Scott says.
Even the Teamsters couldn't get along with the AFL. They left in same time period because AFL was raising hell with Teamster leader Beck, who had been indicted. Vietnam differences could have been a contributing reason, Scott says.
But the basic difference was that the CIO and the AFofL didn't mesh. One was an industrial union taking everybody in, including women. That's why CWA went to CIO because nobody wanted to organize women except the ACTU.
On the historic legacy of Walter Reuther, Scott says he left behind him, "A damned good union!"
There were three locals in the mid-1950s
Temco Corporation expanded rapidly from Grand Prairie into Garland and Greenville, Texas. The UAW-CIO organized locals 390, 1081, and 967 respectively. Both 390 and 1081 would later be combined with Local 893 into the "new" Local 848. UAW 967 continues its base at the Raytheon plant in Greenville in 1999.
On May 28, 1956, Local 1081 reported that they represented 572 members and 160 nonmembers. Local 390 reported on October 24, 1955 that they had 2,938 members and 518 nonmembers. On September 1, 1956, Local 893 reported 5,460 members and 1,750 nonmembers.
Their contracts were similar. The Temco locals had Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) all along, but Local 893 had it in some contracts and not in others. In the automobile industry, the UAW pioneered the concept of Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) in 1955. Local 848 also won it 1968, but conceded in the 1971 negotiations that layoffs in aerospace were so volatile that the concept couldn't be maintained. The December, 1972, newsletter announced that the fund was depleted and no more SUB payments could be collected by laid off members.
Local 893 continued to make important breakthroughs during the 1950s. They pioneered workers comp insurance, burial policies in contracts, use of television in union political campaigns, and a number of other important union innovations.
In 1955, Everett Day became the first native Texan to be President of Local 893.
One of the most fascinating members in the mid-fifties was Local 893's Grievance Chairperson Eleanora "Terry" Purcell, who shattered the passive stereotype of women in union activities.
A WOMAN OF UAW LOCAL 967
by Gene Lantz, October, 1992
Unlike the bookish labor archivist who types these lines for you, Ruth Hise today is not very interested in past struggles. She came to the October Organizing Conference in 1992 at the United Auto Workers' Black Lake Education Center in Upper Michigan to look toward the future. She wants to organize new members and build up her union. Between classes, she consented to spend a few minutes talking to someone who wants to know about the old times...
During WWII, the plant in Greenville was known as Majors Field. Ruth Hise's father was employed there as a fireman. Greenville is known as a difficult city for progressive causes. E-Systems engineer Lenell Geter was wrongly accused of robbery and jailed for some years -- a national disgrace uncovered by television cameras -- basically because he is African American.
Greenville is well known for a large sign that used to be there. It read "The Blackest Land and the Whitest People!" The Ku Klux Klan held a meeting in a public building in Greenville in 1983.
After the war the facilities sat vacant for a time, the property of the city. In 1946 a company named Texas Electrical Manufacturing, later shortened to TEMCO, was organized in Grand Prairie in large manufacturing facilities vacated by North American Aviation Company at the end of World War II. UAW Local 390 was formed by the workers there soon afterward.
TEMCO went on to open facilities in Garland, Texas, and in Greenville.
Local 967 was organized at the Greenville plant around 1951. it has always kept the same number and was never associated with the union at Garland or Grand Prairie. At that time, Ruth Hise was a Greenville schoolgirl. In 1962, Temco became part of the LTV corporation. Local 390 in Grand Prairie and in Garland was combined with Local 893 of the Chance Vought Company and renamed UAW Local 848.
After being named LTV, the Greenville company became known as Electrical Systems, and finally E-Systems, its present name. Until 1968, the company did military work.
Ruth Hise was working for IBM in 1956 in Dallas. She moved back to her hometown of Greenville. Through a personal friend, she found it possible to get a job offer as a secretary at the aerospace plant; but she insisted on going to work on the line instead.
She began work in the upholstery department. She worked in airplanes right beside the union president, but no one asked her to join. Later on, she dated the president's brother, and he asked her.
As is often mentioned in American labor history, many women lost their jobs in industry at the end of World War II. Those lucky enough to continue found a continuing number of employer practices that were discouraging to women workers. Ruth discovered some of them one by one.
Ruth remembers January, 1959, for two reasons: it was the month that an airplane blew up in the hangar and it was the month that she came back to work after a layoff.
After only a few months, she was laid off again for six months. During those six months, Ruth went back to work at IBM. But she also busied herself in studying her union and specifically the contract at Local 967. She had relatives who were lawyers and felt a lifelong fascination with law.
In 1960, Ruth and another woman were recalled to work by an Arbitrator's decision. The company had claimed that they had no recall rights into the upholstery department because they had never hired women into that department. When the union proved the company wrong, the arbitrator ruled in their favor. Both women received back pay for the six months that they had been illegally laid off. One of the aftereffects was the conversion of
Ruth Hise, ordinary worker, to Ruth Hise, Union Activist.
During 1959 Ruth had a girlfriend who had children and was pregnant again. She had to take maternity leave. Unlike men in a similar situation, the girlfriend found that her children had no insurance coverage during the time she was on leave. The union did not seem to be interested in this disparity.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, however, Ruth thought she saw a way to correct the insurance problem. She went to the Equal Employment Occupation Center (EEOC), and they referred her to an office in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Building in Dallas. There she filed a legal action against the company. She remembers the action as coming under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act. When the case was won, women workers at E-Systems in Greenville had the same insurance protection as men!
In 1966 Ruth was elected a Committeewoman of Local 967. She was the first woman to be elected to such a high office. While a Committeewoman, she won a grievance for a woman who then became the first woman in the inspection department.
In 1968 Ruth was a delegate to the UAW convention in Atlantic City. There she met both Leonard Woodcock and Walter Reuther. She was shown a model of the planned Education Center at Black Lake. She didn't realize her ambition to see the actual Center until October, 1992.
As years went by and layoffs came and went, Ruth worked in a number of different aerospace occupations: upholstery, electronics, parts control, material handler, and finally she works in warehousing.
UAW Local 967 went through a severe test from February 4 to August 16, 1972. They were forced out on strike. For some of the workers, the conduct of the strike was very unpopular. Persons unknown broke into the union hall and burned its records. The fire gutted the union hall. To this day, union members are believed to have been the culprits. Ruth Hise thinks so, too. No one was ever prosecuted for the fire.
In 1992, Local 967 signed a new contract. Critics of the contract dislike the "flex hours" and the new health care benefits. Fewer than 50% of the bargaining unit is signed up to pay dues. Ruth blames the problem on member apathy. She now lives with her husband in University Park and has to drive over 60 miles to work in Greenville. Other people who live far away may not be active members.
The following interview was taken on a bus on the way to Louisiana Downs racetrack on June 7, 1991 by Gene Lantz. Local 848 retirees were going to the races. This gentleman fell to reminiscing about his early union experiences and what the union means to a retiree:
Herman Archer hired in at Vought in 1954.
Archer was born in Sperry Oklahoma. Dad worked on power lines, mother in health care. Raised on farm & ranch in West Texas. Worked on ranch. Got into carpenter's local in Abilene at age 15.
Union was "A lot better".
They called a strike once that only lasted 2 hours. When he first began, the construction workers had 2 water buckets. Waterboy carried water with one for white and one for African Americans. One painted white and the other painted black.
Blacks were in a different union.
Archer went into military. Was mechanic. Got out in 1945 & went to machinists and welding school on GI bill in Abilene.
He also belonged to the miners' union in 48-50 in California. Worked for Boraxo mine company. Union was very strong. One difference with UAW: everybody had to go to meetings unless they had a doctor's slip. Else get a fine.
Looking for a better job, he came to Grand Prairie. Worked as carpenter in Grand Prairie 3 years (no union).
At Vought, Archer was a carpenter. He joined the union right away.
Although union workers were much better off than on Archer's previous job, they still had a lot of hardships. There were no breaks at all. Lunch was 30 minutes, but no breaks. There was no air conditioning in facilities. "When you went out of that building you would have water dripping out of your shirt." They had no COLA.
Archer hired in at $1.45/hour in 1954. Working conditions, wages & benefits improved there. Not much insurance there at beginning. It wasn't management that changed, "It was the way that the union caused management to treat their working people."
"It was better that Blacks and whites were in same union." "Anytime that you can have people working together and not be against one another, it's more organized."
He remembers that when he was hurt and had to go to out on disability "The union sure stood by me and helped me." He was out 22 months. After working 10 years. A beam fell on his legs. Went back to work after that and worked another 10 years.
Without the union, the company would have just forgotten him "I don't think I would have drawed any sick pay or anything."
"I've worked on both sides of the fence and I can tell them that they're a lot better off in the union than they are outside the union."
Women Made UAW 848 History
Terry Purcell was head of Grievance Committee at UAW 893 before it merged into 848.
Roy Evans, former President of UAW Local 893 at Chance Vought, remembers Eleanora "Terry" Purcell fondly, even though she ran a hard race against him for president of the local in 1958. "She had the balls of three men!" Evans says.
Purcell was working at Southern Aircraft in Garland when she got involved in her first UAW organizing drive. She served on the election committee then was elected as Committeewoman and Vice President of the Local. She was on the first negotiating committee there.
Purcell repeated those same offices and added a few more at Local 893 after she came to work at Chance Vought. Vought occupied the western side of what we now call the Jefferson facility at LTV. She served one term as head of the Grievance Committee.
She is a prolific writer with tremendous creativity. Local 848's archives are full of her campaign statements, photographs, and other materials. She was written up in a statewide magazine.
Her husband, "Red" Purcell, was a CIO organizer.
After leaving Chance Vought, Purcell put her considerable talents to work for the UAW International. She retired in 1977 and went on as an active retiree in Local 10 in Kansas City.
Organizing has always been a major problem
UAW-CIO Local 893 President Everett W. Day, Chairperson Eleanora Purcell and UAW President Walter Reuther cooperated on an organizing drive during the mid-1950s.
Documents show that in 1958, Local 893 at Chance Vought represented 6,500 members and 3,500 nonmembers, about 65% membership. The bargaining committee announced that year that they would refuse to negotiate a contract with Chance Vought that would provide a free ride for so many nonmembers. They told local newspapers that they would only begin negotiations after membership rose to 80%! It did.
In fact, membership stood at around 90% in January of 1960. But major problems had developed. They began on "Black Friday", the Friday before Christmas, 1959, when thousands of Vought workers were laid off. The January union newsletter announced that there were 10,000 newly laid off aerospace workers in the area!
The company began an effort to get rid of the union through decertification.
Another version of the reason for the decertification has it that the UAW International actually wanted everybody to re-enroll because they had new membership cards.
Either way, it would become a major challenge to the continued existence of the versatile and determined local.
Everybody had to be signed up again! By April, the union only had 47% of the bargaining unit paying dues. President Roy Evans remembers that the company had already prepared a major announcement of their victory over the union. However, people understood the need for the union and voted for it strongly. On April 6th, 1960, 3,900 employees were eligible to vote in the company's decertification election; 282 voted "no union" and 3,267 (92% of the voters) voted to keep the UAW!
Local 893 had survived a major test; but it's troubles were hardly over. Their contract with Vought had expired, and the company's negotiators anticipated that the weakened union would be easy prey.
This is probably a Summer School class around 1964. "Ma" Farris is seated on the left in a white dress. Nova Howard is on right, middle row. To his right is BJ Meeks.
Local 893 Developed "Hit and Run" Strategy
UAW Local 893 at Vought developed an amazing strategy to win a good contract in 1960. In 1990, former President Roy Evans modestly calls it "not particularly original", but let's leave that to the reader...
The company made two "last" contract offers, but the membership turned them both down. Negotiating Committee George Butler had a heart attack on January 22nd, and was not able to rejoin the Committee until April 13th. Roy Evans remembers that the union leadership had known that the union, its condition weakened by massive layoffs and by the decertification election, was not strong enough to shut the company down completely. They put up informational
pickets. President Evans announced to the commercial press that he wouldn't be surprised if production fell off because of the company's attitude.
As Evans remembers it, "We just shut down certain crucial parts of the plant. We found out where they would hurt the most. We told everybody else to go on in and work... A shutdown in critical parts of the shop was our best strategy." The tactic was called "hit and run."
Targeting specific production units was a difficult tactic, and it necessarily involved some confusion. Everett W. Day remembers that people didn't know whether they were supposed to work on a given day or not; they would call the union hall to find out. Brother Herman Archer apparently participated in af 2-hour strike without realizing an overall strategy was in effect. Others can recall being told by union officers at mid-day that their unit would not be working that afternoon: all of them went home at lunch!
Foremen told the members that if they missed work they would be fired right away. Vought President F. O. Detweiler wrote a long letter "to the employees..." to cajole and threaten them. Personnel Manager G.H. Scott wrote a memorandum to all supervision to tell them how they could gently pressure workers to stay away from the hit and run. The company told the commercial press that the labor action was completely ineffective, but the union men and women knew better!
Since the company had cut off dues checkoff, the union began on April 8th to attempt to collect dues by hand inside the plant.
An official strike was finally called on June 13th. As expected by the leadership, a large number of employees crossed the lines. 1,100 of the total of 3,500 crossed after only one week of strike. But the union had made its point well enough that the company agreed to renew negotiations on June 24th.
The union committee carried the company's third proposal to the membership without recommendation. The membership liked it well enough to ratify by a three to one margin!
Evans calls it a success, "We got the company's respect, and that was the main thing."
Local 893 had once again applied novel tactics to union struggles and come out on top. The strategy presaged another big battle in 1984-85.
Billy Owens Tells Some of His Story
Billy Owens, who was elected president of our local more times than anybody in our history, attended our Retirees' Luncheon on October 14 to promote Northrop's Retiree Club. Owens found that he could not get away from all his old friends and other members who wanted to know more about our local's history.
He recalled that our union hall was an old bowling alley when he first came to work at Temco in 1948. In early 1949, he transferred to the new Vought Company as they moved in from Connecticut. He reported proudly that he had carried in the first box for the new company. The old "B" plant, what we now call Building Six at Northrop, was rented out as storage for new refrigerators and Kaiser-Fraser brand automobiles, but giant rats were eating chewing up their exposed rubber parts.
When the UAW began their organizing drive at Vought, Owens was hired as a wrecker driver and an ambulance driver. Goons imported from the Ford plant in East Dallas came to Grand Prairie to beat up union-friendly workers. When somebody had to be driven to the hospital, Owens was supposed to take them!
He said there were 15,000 hourly employees when the A-7 aircraft work was begun. 85% belonged to the union. He went to Washington with International Rep Hiram Moon to talk with Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. Moon and Johnson raised cattle together. "I heard Lyndon Johnson ask Hi Moon, 'What do you need?' Moon told him, 'We need aircraft, and you're going to vote for it!'"
Owens recalled working with Brother Shelton to sign up the first African Americans who came to work at Vought. At that time, everything was segregated. He recalled leafleting in a Dallas shopping center with Brother Sam Brown and Vice President Johnson. When they stopped for a lunch break, the cafeteria would not serve our African-American brother. The Vice President yelled at them, "By God, if he don't eat here, I don't eat here!" Owens concluded, "And he ate with the rest of us."
He encouraged the retirees to tell their stories: "You have got to start spreading the word to the young people what you're all about. Tell young people today that those things happen and they'll say it didn't happen!"
He also told a story about the big, blue "UAW" sign that is on the wall behind our union hall's podium. He said that Lyndon Johnson and John F Kennedy had both spoken at a UAW convention in which that decoration had been on the podium. He said, "Pancho Medrano stole this from out of the hands of the UAW at that time!"
He said that our local lost the 1960 strike against Vought. He was president when they finally got a contract, and "We had to beg on their knees for it. The International UAW rep
[Stone?] had already left us and gone back to Detroit because he refused to
sign." But Hi Moon and Owens signed it. The reason for the novel "hit and run" strike tactic in 1960 was because they couldn't hold the actual strike they started with. "It was just a stopgap measure."
Owens takes credit for building our present union hall. The UAW International owned the property, but Owens ordered the old bowling alley torn down without their approval.
Eventually, Owens lost an election. He said that Nova howard beat him because Owens was not allowed in the plant without a guard. Nova was PCU [a job description that moves around the plant with maximum freedom] and campaigned with 12 leaflets.
Lyndon Johnson and UAW International Rep Hi Moon were in the cattle business together.
Return to UAW 848 Milestones