Arkwright is located in the northeast corner of the town of Coventry, Rhode Island, near the Cranston and Scituate town lines. The company has been in continuous operation for nearly 200 years. As such, its history is complicated and can be confusing.


First established in 1810 by James DeWolf of Bristol with money acquired from the slave trade, Arkwright was originally a cotton mill sitting on the western bank of the Pawtuxet River.


In 1883, Interlaken Mills, a dye house producing cloth used in the manufacture of book cov
ers, was built on the opposite, or eastern bank of the river, across from the cotton mill.


In 1900, Interlaken Mills purchased both the Arkwright Mill and the Harris Mill, which was also a cotton mill, located one half mile down the river.


In 1922 the company built a finishing plant across the road from the Interlaken Dye House. This business produced tracing cloth, a material designed to be drawn on by engineers and draftsmen which could then be used to make blueprints for the construction trades; and Holland cloth, which was used in the manufacture of window shades and the linings of automobile tires. The finishing plant was also named Arkwright.


Both companies were owned by the same parent company, a British firm, the Winterbottom Bookcloth Company, Ltd., but were run as independent entities for twenty-seven years until they were merged as Arkwright-Interlaken in 1959.


The first Arkwright mill shut down and closed its doors in 1925, the Harris Mill in 1956, and Interlaken Dye Works in 1972. At that time the remaining company became the Arkwright Manufacturing Company.


Interlaken Dye Works was the first part of the organization to unionize. In 1937 the production and maintenance workers became Local No. 167 of the Textile Workers of America (TWUA), CIO.


The operatives of the Harris Mill, along with operatives of the nearby Hope, Anthony and Warwick Mills, were organized as Local No. 404 TWUA, CIO in 1942. The War Labor Board found this arrangement unsuitable, so Harris Mill was reorganized as Local No. 968.


The construction and opening of the Arkwright Finishing Company was delayed by the actions of union activists during the long-lasting Great Textile Strike of 1922. This may account somewhat for that company’s hard anti-union stance. At any rate, it managed to fight off several attempts at union organizing at that site for twenty years. The workers there were finally organized as Local No. 1554 TWUA, AFL-CIO in 1962.


Norman Rawlinson was instrumental in bringing the Union to the Arkwright Finishing Plant. Born in 1924, Norman started working at Arkwright in 1942 when he was eighteen years old. Shortly after, he left to serve his country in the European Theater of the Second World War for three years. Upon being discharged from the army, he returned to Arkwright where he was employed for the next forty-three years until his retirement in 1988. Norman died in March 2001.


Norman’s two sons also worked at Arkwright. Steven started in 1971 and Gary in 1973. Gary also recalled the organizing drives, although he was a child at the time. He remembers his father taking him to Frates Barbershop for his weekly “crew-cut,” the short haircut style popular at the time. When the window shades in the barbershop were drawn down, he knew the men were talking “Union.”


Richard Rupp started at Arkwright in 1975 and Peter Townsend in 1980. They interviewed Norman Rawlinson at his home in West Warwick on September 19, 1991.


Norman Rawlinson (NR) 

Charlotte Rawlinson (Mrs. R)

Peter Townsend (PT)

Richard Rupp (RR)


NR: The Roberts family ran the plant. They had every relative they had in there and they were all “company.” If you want to know anything about the Union, I’d keep away from the Roberts because they were all dead against it and they were all out to find out who was trying to get it in and if they knew, they’d have them fired.


        They had everybody in their family working there. Used to have a meeting every Sunday afternoon up the Roberts family, up at the mother’s house and that’s all they talked about- what was going on down at the mill so they could report to the “Super.” They were in with Gibson. William Gibson, the Superintendent, gave them all jobs with the understanding that they wouldn’t go union.


Jeanette Gelinas… her sister worked up there. Her husband worked up there. Her two brothers worked up there. Manuel Frates was her brother-in-law. He worked there. The whole Roberts family was in up there and they were all “company,” and they got all the cream.


Tommy Grabbert… Let me tell you about Tommy Grabbert. Tommy Grabbert’s brother was in my… I stood up for him when he got married and he stood up for me when I got married. That’s how close we were. He worked up there at the time. He got his brother, Tommy, in up there and Tommy got in the Coating Room (one of several different manufacturing departments). The boss in the Coating Room at the time was Mark Costello. Tommy and him were like this (crosses fingers) and everything Tom found out about the Union, he’d run and tell Costello. Because Tommy was 100% against the Union.


PT:Tommy?


NR:He wouldn’t sign a Union Card. He was campaigning against it.


PT:Doesn’t sound like the guy we know today. We’re talking forty years ago.


NR:Let me tell you. I know everybody up there at the time who signed a card, because I was the organizer. I know who they were and who they weren’t. Arthur Morin was another one who was 100% against the Union.


PT: Was he?


NR:You better believe it. See, these guys … after the Union got in they changed. Because before the Union got in, these were the guys who were getting all the cream. And they hated to see the Union come in because they knew things had to be spread out.


Arthur Morin… Tom Schofield was the superintendent. Tom Schofield used to come in when he was in the plant and say: “Hey, Arthur, my wife needs groceries. Go down the house. See my wife. Do her shopping for her. Taker her grocery shopping and all this, that, and the other.” So, what the heck, he’d go for the rest of the day, come back, get paid for it. Hey, you couldn’t do that with the Union Shop. This was the things that were going on.


RR:This was in the 1950’s?


NR:This was in the 40’s.


PT:You know what I don’t understand? The thing that puzzles me is the fact that the other two mills were organized, Interlaken in 1937, and Harris in 1942, but then there’s a twenty-year gap. When did you organize Arkwright?


NR:1962.


PT:So there is a twenty-year gap.


NR:I’ll tell you why. Everybody that they hired up there was related to a foreman, was related to somebody in management or you didn’t get in. Either that or a friend of management because there was one thing. When they hired you, they told you they wanted no union in there.


Henry Paul came in. He was living in the boss’s house, Whitey’s house. Whitey Mishue was his name. He was the boss in the Calendar Room. He got him in there, Henry Paul in there, so when it come to overtime to work or anything, Henry always got the overtime because he had to pay his rent to the boss. These little things, there’s a reason now. Up until two, three years before the Union got in we got beat. We had an election and we got beat.


PT:What year was that?


NR:Two, three years before the Union got in. I think there was a ruling you had to wait a couple of years before you could apply for another election. So, anyway, we got beat by about fifteen votes the first time.


PT:That was all?


NR:We thought we had it wrapped up.


PT:So what did management do? Did they do anything to retaliate against you for trying to organize?


NR:They never found out who was the head of it. They would have fired ‘em. They went around trying to find out, but didn’t have no luck because we did things a little bit different. The reason the Union got in was favoritism. Favoritism. That’s the only reason the Union got in was because of favoritism.


The first election… I’ll give you the story. The first one was me, Camille Phaneuf, and Herbie Niquette got together. We said: “Hey look, how much longer we gonna put up with this? There’s a certain gang in here and they’re the ones getting all the overtime.” No seniority. Didn’t mean nothing. We were on short time. (The plant did not have enough work to keep all of its employees working the standard forty hours each week.) When they brought anybody in, it was the same crew all the time… the Roberts, the boss’s friends, like that. At that time I had two kids growing up, had Gary and Steven growing up. I was on every other week. Joe Hebert was the boss’s friend and the boss got him in. He just came in, less than a year. Worked the weeks we were laid off because he was a friend of the boss. Camille Phaneuf was quite a guy as far as maintenance work. He tried to get into Maintenance (a department with “skilled workers” that made a higher rate of pay). The company said: “No way. No way. You’re gonna stay where you are.” They were bringing in people, hiring people to work in Maintenance that knew less than him. When it came time to change the bouls and things on the calendar through the week, we could change them on straight time. But if the bouls had to be done on a Saturday, they’d send us home and bring in one of their friends to do them.


These were the things that was going on, week after week after week. We said: “Now look.” We’d knew there’s all these guys in here that’s gonna vote against the Union because they were getting all the cream. There were three of us. I could trust Camille ‘cause he’d come to me and he said: “You know, something’s gotta be done about this. We can’t let this go on. We’re getting less money than across the street an hour. We have no pension fund.” They (Local #167) had a pension fund set up. We had just a retirement fund. You had to work there about forty years or thirty years to get a retirement. No pension, you got it in a lump sum. The union over there, they’re getting pensions. They’re getting this. They’re getting that. We’re getting nothing. So I said:  Well, okay, let’s go up and see Sam Azzinaro, head of the Union.” So we went up. We told him the story. He said: “That’s a tough place to get in because we tried it before and we couldn’t get nowhere. Nobody wants to get involved. We talk to people and can’t even get a committee together.” “Well,” we said, “We’ll work with ya.” So we worked.


Used to meet at the Open Gate Motel. Have our meetings over there on Bald Hill Road, Route 3. We’d have our meetings over there. We had a business agent come in and we’d meet over there, the three of us. And finally Camille says: “Hey, I’ve been talking to this guy and I been talking to that guy and I think we can trust them. I think we’ll have them come in.” So we had about seven guys going over there and we’d meet. We’d tell the business agent the story, tell him who to go see. Who was complaining about the company and that. So we’d send him there. You had to have so many signed cards. So some of the ones that were doing all the bitching, when they went over, the Union wanted to talk to them about signing a card. At first they were throwing them out. “No, we don’t want no union over here. They’re using us too good.” So, anyway, it went on quite a while. They started sending letters out to members telling about things the Union could do this for them; the Union could do that for them. They could get us a pension plan. They started sending letters out.


Well, we’d meet at night over there, on a Tuesday night or something, and they’d send the letters maybe Wednesday to all the people who worked up there. So, when Arthur Morin and guys like that went home at noon on their lunch period, they’d bring the letters back and give them to the superintendent. “The Union ’s sending letters out. Look at this. We don’t want no union in here.” So then they started going around trying to find out who was getting the Union in. If they found out, they were gonna get fired.  EvenHazel Harrington’s husband, Walter, went up to Pete Durand’s gas station and asked him if he knew anything about who was trying to get the Union in up there so he could get ‘em fired. They had all these people in there who was related to foremen and that. Come time when we thought we had the majority of the cards signed, we got the election, but we got beat by about fifteen votes and even that was great for the number of suckers they had in there, the company had, you know.


So we got beat. Sam said: “Geez, that’s too bad because it cost a fortune to bring business agents in and organizers to go around and spend all this time and then get beat. Cost us a lot of money.” So, that’s all right. Then all these suckers up there going around: “Hey, hey, hey, oh boy, we got the Union out, we kept them out,” and all that. The bosses pat ‘em on the back and all that. So, that’s all right. Right after that, maybe a year went by, so they were pretty cocky. Now the company, they found no danger of the Union getting in here with this kind of help. They voted it down.  We got beat by fifteen, out of eighty-three people; I think it was, at the time. There were eighty-three, later, when I was President.


So anyway, that was on our side of the street because they were already unionized on the Interlaken side. They were making more money and getting pensions and everything else, and yet we were making the money for the company on the Arkwright side to carry them. They wouldn’t give us as much money as they did the other side or give us a pension, even to keep the Union out. So, anyway, some of the old timers who voted against the Union, they started to retire and the company was bringing in younger help. Even though they were related to somebody in there, they started to think a little bit different. Jimmy Morin was a friend of the boss at the time, but what the boss didn’t know was that Jimmy was a strong union man. So we knew we gained there.


So then about a year or two went by and I went up and saw Sam Azzinaro again. He said: “Gee, Norm, it cost us so much the last time, I don’t think it would pay us to try to get it in again.” I said: “Sam, I can get the Union in, but you’re gonna have to do it my way this time. We know who the suckers are because the last time the company was getting all the letters you sent out. They had a chance to get to the people and tell them the Union ‘s trying to get in and we don’t want it. We’ll give you this and we’ll give you that to keep it out and all. Will you try again to do it? Our way?”  I said I don’t want no committee, just me, Camille, and Herbie Niquette. Just three of us. We don’t want no more meetings with people because it’s getting back to the company, what’s being said. There was a leak somewhere, but nobody ever squealed the names or nothing. So that was good.


So I said to Sam, just do it this way and have no more meetings over there. Have the agent come to the house and that. So I had Pagano as a union organizer. So Pagano came over and sat down and he said: “What makes you think the Union ‘s gonna get in if we try it this time?” I said: “I’ll tell you why. The company ‘s getting so cocky. They‘re trying to… They just got a raise across the street and they wouldn’t give it to us. They just put four of the oldest people, Fred Whitman…” I forget the name of the other people. They’re dead now anyway. Fred Whitman, Isabel Lyons and a couple of them, they were coming up to get their, not their pension, but their retirement benefits. They only had a little bit longer to go to have their years in to get it. The company told ‘em they were all done. They gave ‘em their notice. Well, when they did that, all the old timers up there who were so dead against the Union, some of them started thinking, well, if they did it to them, they’re gonna do it to us. Just before we get our separation pay, they’re gonna knock us off, if they can do it to Fred who had a brother that worked in the office for years. He was the paymaster up there. That’s why Fred got in and all that, and Isabel Lyons was a great friend of the “Super” and all that. So they said: “Gee whiz, that’s not right.”


So, of course me and Camille, we’re watching, going around putting fuel on it. “Hey, what’re you gonna do, let them throw you out the door, too? Gee, maybe it would be good to get the Union in here, you know.”


So anyway, Tommy Grabbert, Arthur Morin, all these suckers that was bringing their letters in showing them to the boss when we sent letters out, we didn’t send ‘em to them. None of the suckers got letters so they could bring them in. So we just did it to the people that we thought we could trust. And by gosh, you can say what you want, but it worked. No word came back. The company didn’t even know they were trying to get in again. They were left in the dark and little by little the company started doing all these things to aggravate the help and it woke a lot of them up. So we said, well maybe we’ve got a good chance. So Pagano started going around to the houses and talking to the people and he was getting a better response. So he got a lot of the people that said no before said: “Yea, I’ll sign that card. Sure, give it to me.”  So they signed the card and they applied for an election.


When they notified the company that we were going to have another election, it took ‘em by shock. So the superintendent goes around and, listen to this, Eddy Leach went around, which was against the law, to go around asking people if they signed the cards. All right. So Eddy came up to me and said to me: “Did you get a letter from the Union?”


“Yup, I got a letter.”


“Did you sign a card?”


I said: “That’s private. I don’t have to tell you.”


“What do you mean you don’t have to tell me? I got a list here. My boss wants, you know, you know. I gotta report, you know, you know. It’s a dirty job.”


I said: “Eddy, I’m not telling you whether I signed or not. I don’t have to tell you. I said: “If you try to fire me for it, you can get sued.”


“Well, we’ll have to look into that.” But he never come back. Anyway, you know, and the guy I worked with, Jimmy Keenan, told ‘em the same thing. “Eddy,” he said, “you can’t go around asking guys that. That’s personal. That’s our business whether we do that.”


“Well we’re the ones who hired you and we got a right to know.”


We had the election and we won.


PT: By how much? Can you remember what the vote was?


NR: There was eighty-three that voted, sixty-nine to fourteen.


PT:Wow, what a turn-around, huh?


NR:And we knew the whole fourteen that didn’t vote for it. Tommy Grabbert was one. Ray Barber was another one. Ray Barber was my friend. His stepfather was president of the union across the street, Ray Beaumier. He couldn’t talk to Ray and that’s how I knew Ray Barber was against it. Ray Barber told me he wanted it, but when his stepfather would talk to him it was: “No, no, we don’t need that over there.” He was one. Tommy Grabbert was the worst one. He was violent against the Union. And the Roberts family, none of them wanted it. Siouxie Roberts was on the line. We don’t know for sure about Siouxie because he was getting fed up at the end because he couldn’t get in Maintenance and he wanted that bad.


PT:These guys are the oldest employees now, and they have top seniority. If you ask them, they’ll tell you they fought tooth and nail for the Union.


NR:Henry Paul was another one. He was bad. And, of course, the worst one of all was the guy who lives over the bridge up there, Julian Bruneau. He was bad. He sent his dog after the organizer. Sent his dog out. The dog came jumping at him. He got paid back for that. Somebody came in from out of town and took out the dog.


PT:So you get in. But you knew the people that worked across the street in Local #167. They lived near you in the neighborhood. The people that worked at Arkwright knew the Interlaken people. So why didn’t they influence Arkwright workers to organize much sooner?


NR: They tried talking to us. They tried, but they were just wasting their time. They were brothers and sisters and cousins and neighbors. It’s just that a lot of Arkwright people felt they owed the company so much for giving them a job.


That’s the way a lot of ‘em were. That’s the way most of them were when I started working there. I was warned the week I got a job never to mention the word union if I wanted to work there. When I went to work there, you know, there were only two products they made, Tracing Cloth and Holland Cloth. That was it.


RR:You started to work at Arkwright in 1942 and then you were drafted?


NR:I went in the service for three years. They had to give me the job back. I went to work there in ’42. They started everybody at sixty cents an hour. After thirty days they gave you a nickel raise and you stayed there until they decided to give you more. And there was no differential in pay. No matter what you did, you got the same rate of pay, on any job.


Mrs. R: You worked on the machines when you came home from the service.


NR:I worked all over the place. I ran calendars for fifteen years. We had fifteen calendars. You had to keep it at 300 degrees, every machine. The rollers… 300 degrees. (A calendar was a large piece of equipment used to fuse finishing materials with a fabric base by applying high heat and pressure.)


These are the things I’m telling you that helped get the Union in. Another thing is they used to have a baler. All the cloth trimmings and everything went into the baler. They had an old clunker there, had to take a hammer and push it down, you know. So when they all got ahead and they had enough bins full of the stuff, they’d take guys like me that’d been there fifteen years or twenty years, take us off our machine and put us on the baler. Take a guy who just come in off the street and put him on your job because they were a friend of the boss. Many a times we’d come in and Whitey’d say to me: “You go to the baler.”


“Hey Whitey, this is my job.”


“Hey, you do what we tell you. I want him in here on this because he ain’t feeling good today, so you go out and do the bailing.”


Mrs. R: Anything you didn’t like, they’d tell you to go get another job.


NR:Oh, yeah, they’d tell you to go get another job if you don’t like it. You went in in the morning, you thought you were gonna work on your own job. You’d been doing it for ten, fifteen years. You were wrong, because if there was a job one of his friends didn’t want to do, you had to do it. You didn’t have no protection. Guys like Tommy Grabbert who went around with his boss all night; he could do anything he wanted. Guys like Arthur Morin go doing the superintendent’s wife’s shopping for her.


Another thing, too, you know, we almost went on strike once. You know, right up until two o’clock the day before, we was going to strike. I remember that Gerard Landry was the steward in the Packing Room at the time with me. I was President and he was there. Right up ‘till two o’clock, we were going out at three. They had to close down all the machines and everything, just to get ready. That’s how close we come. Joseph Hewitt (Arkwright’s General Manager) come up and said: “You guys won. You guys won. Get your committee together. Call your business agent up.” Yup. Now I can’t tell you the year because my memory ‘s not that great.


RR:Was it early in the Union’s history?


NR:Yup, early in the Union. I would say it was in the 60’s. It was when Hewitt was there. Either the same day or the day after, we were going out on strike. That’s how close it came. We wouldn’t give an inch.  We wouldn’t budge. And we had eighty out of eighty-one at the union meeting that voted to strike. The only one, she wouldn’t vote because she was the ex-superintendent’s wife.


PT:The ex-superintendent’s wife was a union member?


NR:Yes, because he had died. The company gave her a job in production. She was also getting a pension from the company.


Mrs. R: That was Schofield.


NR:That was Mrs. Schofield. And she said: “Is it all right if I don’t vote?” And our Business Agent, Gus Simas said: “Of course.” He was a good friend of hers anyway. Even though she was “management,” she was a nice lady. At least she got up and she was nice about it. “Can I abstain from voting?” she says. “You know, because my husband was Superintendent.” She went to the meeting. She never went back and blabbed to the company or anything. She was very nice. Eighty out of eighty-one voted at that meeting to strike.


Gus Simas was a good business agent. Let me tell you, he was good. After that we got Sam Guidice. He wasn’t half as good.


RR:What was Ernie Curry doing at the time? (When Richard and Peter started at Arkwright, Ernie Curry was President of Local No. 1554 and had been for some time.)


NR:Ernie Curry was across the street at Interlaken. He was the Shop Steward. They had a President and a Shop Steward. He was over the President.


Mrs. R: I thought he was the President?


NR:No, Beaumier was the President, Emirald Beaumier, Ray’s stepfather. Remember, that’s why I knew Ray didn’t want the Union.


PT:So, when you guys were organizing the Union on the Arkwright side, it was Local 1554 you were organizing?


NR:1554, TWUA.


PT:The Interlaken people must have been encouraging you, right?


NR:Some of them were encouraging and some of them wasn’t.


PT:Why?


NR:I don’t know. Maybe because there were some in the union across the street that weren’t too happy with Curry.


PT:Well, you can’t make everyone happy.


NR:That’s what I’m saying. But, you’d have thought they’d have gave us more support than they did. But then, on the other hand, once, when they were going out on strike, we voted not to go out to help them. That caused a lot of…


PT:That created lifelong bad feelings?


NR:Well, that’s what I’m saying.


RR:This happened after you were organized.


NR:This happened after we organized. Curry came here one night asking me to have a special meeting to vote to help them. So we did meet and we voted “no.” Why should we help them, they never helped us get the Union in. That was our feeling.


PT:In your contract at the time did you have a clause that said if one local went on strike the other one was bound to honor it?


NR:No. Couldn’t do that. According to our business agent we couldn’t do that. We were two separate… It would have been against the law. We’d have been breaking the law.


PT:There must have been more bad feelings after that because you wouldn’t support them. Did they strike after you said you wouldn’t support them?


NR:I don’t think so. No, I don’t think they did, because I would have remembered.


PT:All the time you were President things were pretty stable. Other than grievances and the daily bickering going on, there wasn’t anything big, no walkouts, no arbitrations?


NR: Never had no problem.


RR:There were a number of strikes against the company over time, at the cotton mill in 1857 and the dye works in 1909. There was the Textile Strike of 1922. Of course that’s all before the Union. Local 167 struck Interlaken in 1937 and again in 1941. Do you remember that one?


Mrs. R: You didn’t go to work ‘till ’42.


NR:I don’t remember any strikes. I went to work in August of ’42.


Everybody up there when I went to work at Arkwright was related to either the “Super” or the big bosses. Oh, at one time Eddy Leach wouldn’t hire anybody unless they were from Hope (a Village in nearby Scituate) because they voted for him. He was the town councilman.


See, that’s what you had against you. “I owe him a favor. We don’t want no union. He gave me a job.” It was tough. You didn’t dare mention union unless you knew somebody real good. That’s how bad it was. The second time we organized, we didn’t have the meeting over there, even though Camille and the other guy was in with me. They never even came over here (the Rawlinson home) with the business agent. He just met with me. (To Mrs. Rawlinson) Remember when the kids used to go sit on the floor with him eating popcorn?


Mrs. R: That was over at the other house.


NR: Yeah, that’s right.


PT:So, you really carried the whole weight on your shoulders, I guess.


NR:I did then, but we got in. They did it my way and we got it in.


RR:You were the first President. Was Camille Vice-President?


NR:Camille couldn’t make all the meetings on Sundays that we used to have. We had joint board meetings on Sunday once a month. Gus said: The Vice President should be there to know what’s going on.” So Camille resigned. Jimmy Morin took over.

Jimmy… This guy was a brute. This guy was something. I mean he… Oh, I had to calm him down.


PT:Was he a friend of yours?


NR: Yeah, but you wouldn’t believe it. He wasn’t like the rest of them up there. He was “union!” Wow, he was tough! I seen him pin a guy right up off the wall. Right up off the wall by the collar and tell him: “You sign that card.” And he, ducking, “He’s gonna hit me. He’s gonna hit me.”


There was this Italian guy that worked across the street at Interlaken and he was one of these macho guys. So, Hewitt at the time was having trouble with the union across the street. So he says: “I’ll send him over there and show him he doesn’t have to sign a card.” He’s got so many days to sign a card before he joins the Union and all this and that and the other. So he comes across the street to our side, you know. “I want to meet the President,” you know. I walk in the office, you know. He’s in there and I said: “Here’s a union card. You gonna sign it?”


“I’m not signing no union card.”


I said: “Oh, you’re not, huh? Okay, that’ is your privilege. You got thirty days.” “After thirty days is up, I’m not signing it then, either.”


So I said: “Okay, just hold on a minute.” I went out and I got Jimmy and he comes in and I says: “Hey, Jimmy, we got a guy here who doesn’t want to sign a union card.


“Oh yeah? You wanna work here?”


“Yeah.”


“You gonna sign the card?”


    “Oh, no. Mr. Hewitt, the “Super,” the big guy across… told me I didn’t have to for thirty days,” he says.


“That’s what he told you?” Jimmy says; “Here’s the card. Here’s a pencil. You gonna sign it?”


“Nope.”


Grabbed him right by the neck. Don’t forget, this guy’s kinda rugged. Right up off the floor. Right against the wall. “You gonna sign it?”


“Put me down! Put me down! Put me down! Put me down!”


Oh, that was funny. Oh that was funny.


PT:Right in front of the whole shop?


NR:No, no, this was in the office, outside the hall in the old office. There’s only me and Jimmy and him. Nobody from management was there.


So anyway, I called the business agent. I said: “I want you to get out here right now.” I says: “I want you to stop something before it happens again. The guy across the street there, Hewitt, is gonna pull a fast one, telling these guys they don’t have to join the Union for thirty days and all that.” He says: “Oh yeah?” So, he comes out and calls Mr. Hewitt right over. He says: “What are you trying to do? You want trouble? You want trouble? We’ll give you some trouble. This guys already got thirty days in across the street. You put him over here on a transfer. He’s gonna sign that card. Don’t you ever pull that again,” he says, “or I’ll pull them all right out of here.” He was tough. Gus was good.


So, Hewitt says: “Well, according to…”


“I don’t care according to nothing,” he says. “I’m the Business Agent and I’m telling you this is the way it’s gonna be.”


So anyway, this guy they sent over says: “The guy was gonna hit me. That guy was gonna hit me.”


Gus says: “Good. They’re gonna hit you. Good. They should hit you.”


Jimmy was good. Jimmy went through the plant. Anybody give the Union trouble… brother!


PT:That was the Vice President?


NR: Yeah, he was tough. You wouldn’t believe what he used to tell the bosses and things. He had a temper. He was rough. He was rough. That’s what we needed, though, at the time.


PT:It was really a small group, though, only eighty-three people.


NR: They tried to bring in some of the bosses, too. We had to challenge their vote.


PT:All three mills were Textile Workers Union. Do you remember when the TWU amalgamated with the Clothing workers in the 1970’s to become ACTWU? What was the feeling at the time? Did you guys have any bad feelings about that?


NR: Not that I ever remember.


RR:Did you even feel it on a local level?


NR:I didn’t even notice.


PT:Besides your local business, you went to conventions?


NR: Oh, sure. Went to New York. Went to Canada. Went to Washington, DC. Went to the World’s Fair.


PT:In New York?


NR: In New York. Went to Canada with Ray Barber and his stepfather. Went to Washington, DC with Beaumier. Didn’t bring Ray with me that time. He was Vice President and I’d had enough of him. That was it.


PT:How many years did you serve as President?


NR: About eleven.


PT:Who took over for you when you stepped down?


NR:Ray Barber.


RR:Took over as President?


PT:As President of the Union?


Mrs. R: He was Vice President.


NR:He was Vice President until I resigned. Then he was President.


PT:And did that last long?


NR:Too long.

 

An Interview with Norman Rawlinson (1924-2001)

Organizer and first President of Local No. 1554 TWUA, AFL-CIO