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the mill property, to which we were not doing any damage. We were very peacefully picketing. We had a very peaceful picket and have had up to the present time.
Then they tried another scheme. They went out over the hills and to other towns and hired everyone they could get hold of and put out the word that the strike was over with. They went as far as South Carolina and Georgia and hired every man they could get hold of; that is, countrymen and inexperienced help, and they brought them into the mill in order to keep us out. Before they would sit down and arbitrate with us they would spend thousands of dollars; that is, before they would cooperate with the Federation of Labor.
Then, as the brother said, it was not long until they began to evict the folks from their homes and set them out on the street. I had been told at that time in the town by some of the business people that the mill was in pretty bad financial condition and that something must be done. It was only a few days after that, we found out, that they had borrowed $800,000 from this firm.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. You mean the Reconstruction Finance Corporation?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir; that is right.
Mr. ChrisTENBURY. Yes, sir. Then, when they got this $800,000 they began to set those people out of their houses one after another. That is when the battle started in connection with the evictions from the bomes. They set out people from 39 homes. They evicted 250 in all. But the rest of them moved out in places where they could find them.
Before going any further into this matter I will say that before they had done this thing they had gone around and leased every open home building that they could find; that is, before they set those people out. That was so they would not find any place to go to. We had families in that town that were set out on the streets as high as 3 days.
Now, my friend, what we are here for is to ask the Government and this committee that they make a ciose study of this bill which is now before you. We believe that will be of benefit to the manufacturers just as much as the labor class of people in their working hours and in connection with the wages paid.
I do not see how our friend from the South representing the manufacturers said the other day what he did. I do not see how he can figure out that the family of six or seven can live off of 6 or 7 dollars a week. But we have families in Mooresville, N. C., today which have drawn as little as 40 cents in the pay envelope. They would get perhaps around 15 to 16 hours of work a week. But before they would get their check the company would take out the rent, coal, and the lights. And if he had anything to eat off of, all right; if not, all right. That is the way it figured up.
We believe this bill will help the manufacturers. And we are asking you as Congressmen to pay close attention to and study this bill in order that it may be fixed in such a way that we can secure help and protection, especially for the children of these families.
We have families in that town today, my friend, who cannot send their children to school because they do not have the money with which to clothe them. They have to live off of charity. We have some working in the mills all week and then they have to look to charity for enough to bridge them over from one week to another.
There has come a time, my friends, when something must be done in our country: As we know and as you know, we have around 11 million unemployed people today walking the streets, and the biggest majority of them today are in the Southland. It is not because there is not enough goods to be made but because the manufacturers have stretched out and doubled up and turned the other men out onto the street. That is the reason for the condition existing today.
One man was speaking about the silk mill. We have one plant in our town that belongs to the Burlington Silk Co. Since Christmas the man who ran 8 looms is now running 16 at the same pay he was getting for running 8.
A man was telling me Saturday that when you draw your check on the company's time you walk right into the office and they give you a little slip of paper, and the office will get you and take you right through the door and you walk into the company store to cash it. That is the trouble we have in the South since the N. R. A. was declared unconstitutional.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. When did you folks go on strike?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Were many of them married people, and did they have children?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. I did not understand your question, sir.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. About how many children were involved in the whole group?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. I would say the children involved in the whole group would number around 800.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. When did this company get that loan from the R. F. C., to your knowledge? Was it after you went out on strike?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir; after we came out on strike.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. You people believed they got it after you went out on strike?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. And they believed that this benevolent United States Government is lending to your employer for the purpose of browbeating you and financing an institution to starve you into submission? Is that the belief of the worker?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir; that is the belief of the worker, that it is used for that purpose.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. They believe that is a fact?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. That is what has been done. I know according to what they said about the condition of the manufacturer that they did use that for that purpose. If they did not, they would not have had to borrow the money.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. The people who belong to your union and are employed there are practically all American citizens?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir; they are all American citizens.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. But they are forced by the circumstances and the conduct of the employer to think in different terms now of their employer, and of their Government, than they did prior to the strike?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. They have a little different idea about the whole circumstance?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. And you would not be much surprised as one of the workers, would you, if the philosophy of communism appealed to them now, would you?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. No, sir; I would not.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. That carries out the answer to some of the testimony that was given this afternoon as to why the Communists go to communities where the employers ruthlessly oppress the workers and deny them their right to belong to a union, compel them to work under miserable, un-American conditions?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. That is correct.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Your strike has been carried on peacefully, so far as the strike was concerned, since the inception of it?
Mr. ChrisTENBURY. It is one of the most peaceful strikes that has been known.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Then how did you folks live since the employer has leased the available houses in the community and forced you out of the company houses?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Those folks could not find any places to put the stuff, so they gave them the garages off of the lots, and they took those garages and made barracks out of them, and they live in those.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. And live in the shacks and in the barracks of this kind?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir.
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Those who can go do go. But we have some who have not got the clothing to wear to go to school in weather like we have now.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Does the company have outside people who help in the breaking of the strike?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Yes, sir; they have.
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. I do not know about the gunmen, but they have what they call regular strikebreakers.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Some very rough persons?
Mr. Wood. The other day a gentleman representing the 14 States in the South, that is, representing the employers, spoke about so many beautiful gardens that the employees had and how much potatoes and vegetables and corn they raised. Just how much room is there in which to raise a garden in connection with the company houses? Do they have an acre or two of land, or how much do they have?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. No, sir. The biggest garden I know of over in the mill village would be not much more than a quarter of an acre.
Mr. Wood. There isn't any room at all around some of these houses?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. No, sir. We have some houses around the mill hill where there is just enough room to drive a wagon between one house and another.
Mr. Wood. And no space to grow a garden?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. No, sir. One can stand on one porch and pour water onto the other porch.
Mr. Wood. What kind of houses are they?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Well, Brother Congressman, they have some houses there on that mill hill that have been built around 35 years They are three-room houses. Of course, they have some six-room and seven-room houses that are pretty good houses, and they were built in 1920, 1922, and 1923. But as to most of the old houses, some of them are pretty good houses but some repairs could still be made. And some are built so high up that under the back of the house you could drive a car.
Mr. Wood. The average house, I suppose, has about two or three rooms?
Mr. CHRISTENBURY. Three or four rooms. The smallest is a three-room house, and they go on up to six or seven rooms.
Mr. KELLER. Next we will have Mr. L. James Johnson.
STATEMENT OF L. JAMES JOHNSON
Mr. Johnson. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, in the beginning I wish to try to tell you about how I understand some of the miseries and suffering of the textile workers, because at Bath, S. C., my original home town, to where the United Merchants & Manufacturers Corporation moved machinery from Fall River, Mass., that is, to Bath and the two little towns nearby, which are about a mile away, they being Langley and Clearwater, better known as the Horse Creek Valley. Most of this machinery was moved down there in 1931 and 1932. May I say that in the boxcars in which this machinery was loaded to be moved down there there were notes pinned all around saying "We got 60 cents an hour for loading this machinery, and you will get 18 cents down South”, showing that the workers up North who loaded the cars got 60 cents an hour and those down South who unloaded got 18 cents an hour.
This machinery was installed, and they started paying wages extremely low. The wages became so low that the workers at all three mills went out on strike. In fact, the skilled workers in the mill were making about $9, that is, some of them were; and we could not exist on it. At the time I was working in the mill weaving, that is, my father and myself were. I had to quit school at the age of 13 years in order to go to work.
And, by the way, I worked at night. At that time there was a South Carolina law that prohibited children under the age of 16 years working at night. I worked at night at the age of 14 years and on up to 18. Every time an inspector would come down to inspect the mill the employer would send me out somewhere, along with the rest of them, so that they could get by the State law.
We came out on strike in protest against those wages. Then this United Merchants & Manufacturers tried to break the strike, like others did; but they could not do it. We had a committee meeting one day. He did not meet the committee but he told us he would meet us as individuals. The general manager of the mill told me time and time again at that meeting he had Negroes on his farm making 60 cents a day, and we could do the same thing, and he didn't give a damn about the people working in his mill, that he had enough money to live on the rest of his life, and he didn't care whether they got anything or not.
They got countrymen and brought them in. After the strike was settled he discharged many of us. My father and myself were victims of discrimination, like many other workers there, and were evicted from the company house and the furniture set out on the street. We lived in a one-room barn in which there was no chimney and no way to have a fire during one winter. The only way we could have a fire was in a little, tmy stove.
Many workers there had those same conditions. Those were the tactics and are still the tactics used by those employers. Today there are approximately 150 workers who were workers at this one Bath mill who had been discharged and discriminated against.
They refused to go along with the ruling of both the Cotton Textile Relations Board and with the National Textile Relations Board, as well as State boards. They ignored all of them. Still they pay the low wages, like many other employers in the South.
The wages for skilled workers at this mill--not unskilled such as sweepers and cleaners, but for skilled workers-average from $10 to $13.50 and $14, but mostly down to $10, $12, or $11. Some of them do get as much as $12.50 or $13 or $14, and perhaps one out of a hundred get $16. You can't tell about that.
Those are the tactics they use.
Also at this town they have the company store and the employees have to buy most of their groceries at the company store, because they do not happen to have the gardens like the gentleman spoke of here Monday. At this company store they pay from 10 percent to 20 percent and 25 percent more than the same food would cost at other stores, that is, at the regular stores of regular merchants. Therefore, what little pay they do give the workers they get back at the company store.
I know an experience of my own while I was working there. For instance, you could buy a suit of clothes and a suit of clothes that you could bur at an average store for $15 or $20 they would charge about $25 or $27 for. And they would take $1.50 or $2 a week out of the pay envelope.
I know I bought one and paid $1.50 or $2 a week on it, and it was taken out of my envelope. And ther took $12 more out of my ticket than they should have taken. In other words, I paid the bill $12 over. And I was trying to get it back, but the only way I did