I started in the mill straight out of high school. I graduated on June 1st, had my birthday on June 3rd, and entered the mill on June 4th, 1969. And I've been there ever since.
There's no question, the 1991 election was the hardest for my family, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and in every other manner. My husband was one of the 13 illegally fired in 1991 due to union activities, although of course other reasons were stated.
The supervisor thought that my husband played a vital role in getting the union in.
The supervisor had already warned him that if he continued to be involved with the Union that it would more than likely cost him his job.
He was fired on the day of the election. They said that he threatened a supervisor.
The day that he was fired, my husband had worked there 33 years and had never had a write-up on his record.
You cannot know what it is to see your husband sitting in shock at a table saying 'what are we going to do?' Nothing else mattered. I don't ever, ever want to see that happen to anybody else again. That's why I work so hard for the Union, because I'm determined, if I can help out, this will never occur illegally to anyone again. And if it does, I'm going to fight it as hard as I possibly can to see that it is righted.
My husband had a family home, a log cabin that had been in his family for 150 years handed down from his people in the mountains, one of the few 2-story log cabins still remaining. As we held on, many things had to go and that was one of them.
Ernest hugged me and made me a promise. He said, 'I won't ever let you down, your husband will get his job back, it will be taken care of.' I knew he was a man of his word, and anytime things would get real down, I'd either call Vonnie and cry to her, or think about his promise. And somewhere down the road, it took a long time, had we known that day how long it would take . . . because we had no idea what we would have to go through. It was incomprehensible to us.
Every time we thought we were through with one court, of course the company would not agree, and we'd have to go on to the next court. And we would win in each court. And all 13, I'm acting like my husband was the only one, of course I had friends that went through this just as much and we all tried to hold each other up. Just as you would finish one court, they'd say okay you have to go to another. We thought this would just be months but it turned into years and the years would just keep going by. Just when you think you're going to lose all hope, there's always going to be another court out there somewhere, there wasn't, finally, and it was over with.
It was because we believed in what we were doing so much that we were able to do it, but it certainly didn't make the sacrifices any easier.
It took us 6 and a half years through the labor law courts to get his job back, which he did win, with back-pay, and was reinstated on his job. He worked for two years and retired.
My husband still is not over it and he may never be over it. I don't blame him. I'm not over it really, if you can tell, and never will be either.