ABSTRACT

In the spring of 1963, leaders of the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) selected J. P. Stevens as the target for a major organizing campaign. The second-largest textile firm in the nation, Stevens employed more than 36,000 people, the bulk of them in the South. For more than 30 years, textile unions had struggled to organize the growing southern textile industry, the region’s largest employer. Across the South, employers fiercely opposed the union, often backed up by local politicians and community leaders. By the early 1960s, unions had only managed to sign up around 10% of the southern textile workforce, and most of these employees worked in small plants. Seeking to make more progress, TWUA leaders reasoned that if they could organize a large firm, other employers would look more favorably upon the union.