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Authors

Paul Filson

Abstract

[Excerpt] October 10, 1985, was a day of reckoning for a remarkable organizing campaign. On that day nearly 10,000 North Carolina textile workers cast their ballots on whether they wanted to be represented by the Amalgamated Clothing Textile & Workers Union (ACTWU). 10:30 that night, inside the gates of Plant 1, the heart of the Cannon Mills Company, the 150 union supporters who had been permitted to witness the vote count heard the results. For five solid minutes there was a deafening cheer and chants of "union, union, union." The huge press contingent outside the gates was convinced the union had won. The numbers, however, gave the union 37% and the company 63% of the vote.

Looking at the Cannon organizing drive analytically, it is easier to see why there was reason to cheer when the vote tally was announced. Over 3,500 workers in one of the most viciously antiunion states in the country voted union. In spite of what has to be one of the most expensive and intense anti-union campaigns ever, in the midst of hundreds of plant closings and a textile import crisis, 3,500 workers were not scared away from voting for the union and voting their convictions. There is no doubt in my mind that these workers represent a solid core for future organizing in the South.

Looking to the future, the campaign brought to light techniques and strategies which can be used again and may help unions win organizing campaigns in the 1980s. Though times may look bleak for industrial union organizing, there is reason for optimism. The Cannon campaign touched the lives of many more thousands of people than actually voted. Now, when workers in the Charlotte, N.C., area have problems on the job, they will look to organizing unions as an alternative and ACTWU as a union that can help.

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