Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Anna Mae Fields, May 30, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Working as a cook's assistant at Pikeville Methodist Hospital

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Partial Transcript: Mae, let's test the level of recording, say your name.

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes her time working as a cook's assistant in the "old" hospital. In addition to doing her normal duties of cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, she also had to make food that patients could be fed through a tube, though that was not her job. Moving to the "new" hospital, Fields was moved to the day shift and earned a little over a dollar per hour.

Keywords: Breaks; Cafeterias; Coffee shops; Cooks; Coworkers; Day shifts; Dieticians; Gertrude Irving; Hospitals; Kitchens; Marie Fields; Ms. Vickers; Night shifts; Overtime; Patient care; Paychecks; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Supervisors

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Cooking and dining; Dishwashing; Hospitals--Employees--Salaries, etc; Occupations; Work environment

00:14:18 - Grievances from hospital kitchen staff

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Partial Transcript: What were the grievances that came out of your department during this--for the strike?

Segment Synopsis: Fields shares the grievances of the kitchen department, citing poor conditions, understaffed, low wages, and not enough benefits.

Keywords: Benefits; Grievances; Hospitals; Kitchen staff; Low wages; Nurses; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Poor conditions; Strike issues; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; Work conditions

Subjects: Hospitals--Employees--Salaries, etc.; Job security; Occupations; Salaries; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Work environment

00:17:03 - Past work experience

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Partial Transcript: Um, why did you first apply for a job over there, Mae?

Segment Synopsis: Fields shares her experiences of working at a restaurant for eleven years in the kitchen. She quit after an argument with her boss. After leaving that job, she went to the hospital and got a job in the kitchen of the hospital.

Keywords: Afternoon shifts; Ann Davis; Arguments; Bosses; Dicey Gibson; Edith Guy; Examinations; Faith's Dairy Bar; Gertrude Irving; Hospitals; Juanita Phillips; Maggie Allen; Marie Fields; Minnie Carol; Ms. Vickers; Nonprofessional staff; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Applications for positions; Hospitals; Occupations; Restaurants; Salaries; Supervisors; Women cooks

00:22:40 - Before the strike / Early unionizing efforts

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Partial Transcript: Well, what do you remember it was like working up there, just before the strike coming out--

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes her time at the new hospital. It was a much bigger hospital than the old one with not enough staff in the kitchen. Fields recounts that there were too many supervisors, and that they would give conflicting orders. Fields mentions that union cards were signed while they were working at the old hospital, but no one was fired for union activity until they started working at the new hospital.

Keywords: Ardena Wheeler; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Hazel Ratliff; Hospital boards; Hospital kitchens; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Kitchen staff; Kitchens; Lee D. Keene; Marie Fields; Mary Ann James; Ms. Vickers; Night shifts; Patients; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Strikes; Supervisors; Understaffed; Union activities; Union cards; Union halls; Union organizing; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; Vacations

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Job security; Labor unions--Organizing; Picketing; Pikeville (Ky.); Women political activists; Work environment

00:38:50 - First night on the picket line

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, um what'd you do that night? Did you go to the picket line?

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes going to the picket line with 5 others in one car. Fields stayed on the picket line all night, and described the event by saying that she enjoyed the experience and would do it again.

Keywords: Communications Workers of America (CWA); Eloise Pyle Bevins; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Maintenance staff; Marie Fields; Mary Ann James; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Shifts; Union activities; Union organizing

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Demonstrations; Labor unions--Organizing; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:40:56 - Family support / History of union involvement

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Partial Transcript: Well, how did people around you react to you, like your family, your mom? Was she supportive of the strike?

Segment Synopsis: Fields identifies this strike on Pikeville Methodist Hospital as the first strike she had participated in. Fields describes the support she received from her family, since her father was an officer in the United Mine Workers Association, and her mother and family were supportive of her union efforts.

Keywords: Coal miners; Coal mines; Local unions; Parents; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Strikes; Union officers; Unions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)

Subjects: Coal miners--Kentucky; Coal miners--Labor unions; Families; Family histories; Picketing; Pikeville (Ky.); United Mine Workers of America

00:44:13 - Political involvement since the Pikeville strike

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Partial Transcript: Well since Pike--since the Pikeville strike, have you been involved in any other union drives?

Segment Synopsis: Since the Pikeville strike, Fields has not been involved in any other strikes or labor organizing. Fields has been active in campaigning for Democratic candidates in her area. Fields describes her involvement in political campaigns and elections.

Keywords: Campaigning; County clerks office; Courthouses; Democrats; Ernest Elliot; Hospital boards; Hours of operation; Letters; Newspapers; Political offices; Republicans; Retirement; Strikers

Subjects: County clerks; Elections; Labor unions--Organizing; Pikeville (Ky.); Strikes and lockouts; Voting; Women political activists

00:49:55 - Role in the strike

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Partial Transcript: When you think back about it now, what stands out the most in your mind about the strike?

Segment Synopsis: Fields remembers her time spent on the picket lines. She recalls setting up roadblocks with Hazel Ratliff in freezing weather and even getting shot at. Some would stop and give them money but others would tell them to go home and be with their families. When Fields wasn't on the picket line or setting up roadblocks, she would take the union checks to the banks to pay the bills.

Keywords: Hazel Ratliff; Lee D. Keene; Money; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Roadblocks; Strikes; Union halls

Subjects: Labor unions--Strike benefits; Picketing--Kentucky--Pikeville; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:55:36 - Others involved in the strike / Security concerns

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Partial Transcript: Did you get help like that from other people? What about--were there businesses or members of other unions that wouldn't cross the picket line?

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes how members of Kroger's union were supporting the strike. Fields also describes how they boycotted the Piggly Wiggly, as it was preparing food for the patients of the hospital while the kitchen staff were on strike. Fields recalls that none of the members of the hospital board or staff would come out to talk to the staff that were on strike. She mentions that doctors and nurses would come out and talk with them, and would tell them about the number of patients they had inside the hospital. Fields also shares that the hospital kept security and K9 units in fear that the strikers would do something inside the hospital. Though the strikers were accused of setting tacks in the road, Fields says they had nothing to do with this.

Keywords: Doctors; Dogs; Hospital boards; Krogers; Lee D. Keene; Ms. Vickers; Nurses; Patients; Picket lines; Piggly Wiggly; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Smoke bombs; Strikes; Tacks; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; Walkouts

Subjects: Boycotts; Picketing--Kentucky--Pikeville; Security guards; Strikebreakers

01:00:28 - Working with the union

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Partial Transcript: So you were--when you weren't on the picket line and when you weren't setting up roadblocks, you'd go down to the union office and help work on the strike benefits stuff?

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes her role in the strike as not only being involved in the picket line and roadblocks but also her time spent working on strike benefits at the union office. Fields discusses working with Lonnie Daniel, and how she believes his efforts to involve the Methodist Church were misguided. Fields also mentions other boycotts she was involved in, specifically boycotting one of the stores owned by a member of the hospital board.

Keywords: Hazel Ratliff; Hospital boards; Leaflets; Letters; Lonnie Daniel; Marie Fields; Methodist Church; Picket lines; Piggly Wiggly; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Union halls; Union organizers; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Boycotts; Labor unions; Picketing--Kentucky--Pikeville; Pikeville (Ky.); Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

01:05:19 - News coverage of the strike

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Partial Transcript: Well, did you talk to the press? Did you get interviewed?

Segment Synopsis: Fields recalls that she would sometimes get interviewed by news reporters. Fields shares that while the strike did receive some publicity in the news, the local newspaper did not cover the strike. Fields also remembers that many of the mine workers supported the strike but some did not.

Keywords: District 30 Conventions; Hospitals; Lee D. Keene; Local newspapers; Miners; News; News releases; Newspapers; Picket lines; Pike County News; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Press; Press coverage; Strikes; Unions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Williamson Daily

Subjects: Interviews; Newspapers; Picketing; Press releases; Reporters and reporting; United Mine Workers of America

01:09:37 - Time spent on the picket line / Women on the picket line

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Partial Transcript: Well what do you remember most about the times you spent on the picket line?

Segment Synopsis: Fields talks about enjoying her time spent on the picket lines, and how she liked talking and getting to know people. Fields also discusses how the injunctions affected their strike. The injunctions limited the number of picketers to four, so they set up a picket schedule. The extra strikers would wait in a plywood shed they constructed, and would replace the four picketers on a rotation. Once the strike was officially ended and the strikers went in and filled out applications, the shed was burned down. Fields discusses her treatment as a woman on the picket lines. People would tell her that she should either be inside working or at home with her family.

Keywords: Applications; Ardena Wheeler; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Hazel Ratliff; Hospitals; Injunctions; Lonnie Daniel; Mary Ann James; Picket lines; Picket schedules; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Unions; United Methodist Church

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Picketing; Pikeville (Ky.); Strikes and lockouts--Law and legislation; Women political activists

01:18:31 - Membership in local union

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Partial Transcript: Um, were you then--you were actually a member of the local, weren't you?

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes her time as a member of the local union and says that she enjoyed the meetings. The local union meetings were informative and gave instructions on running a good picket line without violence.

Keywords: Fire alarms; Fire departments; Friends; Hospitals; Labor unions; Nurses; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Police departments; Strikes; Trailers; Union hall; Union meetings; Union members; Union officers; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; Violence

Subjects: Demonstrations; Labor union locals; Labor union meetings; Labor unions--Organizing; Lexington (Ky.); Picketing; Women political activists

01:22:29 - Initial strike expectations / Other strategies

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Partial Transcript: What--think about it Mae, what did you really think that strike was gonna be like?

Segment Synopsis: Fields admits that she did not imagine the strike lasting as long as it did. Fields shares that the strike and the role of the church was meant to put pressure on the hospital board to allow union membership but the chairman of the board was the main one that kept the union from organizing. Fields didn't think the strategy to use the church was effective and that churches and preachers should not be involved in politics or union events. Fields stated that it would have been more effective to use financial pressure to persuade the hospital.

Keywords: Bibles; Board members; Churches; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Financial pressures; Hospital board members; Hospital boards; Hospitals; Labor unions; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Politics; Preachers; Union cards; Union tactics; Unions; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Labor unions--Organizing; Methodist Church; Pikeville (Ky.); Religion; Strikes and lockouts

01:26:29 - Union meetings

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's see, um, what do you remember about go--about the union meetings?

Segment Synopsis: Fields shares that she hardly ever missed a union meeting and if she did, it was because she was on picket line duty. She would also call others and tell them the location and time of the meetings to gain support. Most of their local union meetings were held in the courthouse, sometimes they would be in the union hall. Though the hospital's board of directors did not attend, they would send someone to listen to what the union was planning. Fields recounts going to the picket line and the excitement it brought and shares that she has no regrets. Fields grew closer to Mary Ann, Hazel, Ardena, and Minnie Carol as the strike went on.

Keywords: Ardena Wheeler; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Hazel Ratliff; Hospital boards; Local strike directors; Local union officers; Lonnie Daniel; Marie Fields; Mary Ann James; Minnie Carol; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Strike committees; Union halls; Unions

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Labor union meetings; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

01:32:37 - Managing a household during the strike

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Partial Transcript: I'm gonna ask everybody about their households and how they got by during the strike so I get some idea of who was living together and what--how they were getting--managing during the strike and how they were getting things done.

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes how the Communications Workers of America would pay their bills and would give them $25 a week to live on. They would also set up roadblocks to gather additional funds for special things. Fields describes the strike funds being handled by the union president, which worked well for everyone. Fields recounts living in the house with her mother, sister, father, and daughter; she was 43 at the time of the strike. Besides the two strike benefits, they were living on their mother's Social Security payments and they were able to live comfortably. After the strike, she describes working at Faith's Dairy Bar as a cook.

Keywords: Annie Fields; Bills; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Glen Damren; Labor union officers; Marie Fields; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Roadblocks; Strike funds; Union Presidents; Union offices; William Morrison

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Families; Labor unions--Strike benefits; Picketing; Social security

01:37:35 - Returned to hospital after strike

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Partial Transcript: What about, um, the hospital? Did you--you went back in the hospital, didn't you?

Segment Synopsis: Fields recalls returning to work at the hospital in January of 1981. She returned to her job as cook's helper in the hospital's kitchen. She worked at the hospital for a year and 7 months. Fields describes returning to worse conditions than before the strike, working long hours by herself without any breaks.

Keywords: Cook's assistant; Hospitals; Kitchens; Long hours; Marie Fields; Methodist Hospital; Ms. Vickers; Pensions; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Poor work conditions; Strikes; Supervisors; Union cards; Unions; Votes

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Elections; Job security; National Labor and Relations Board

01:42:49 - Work experience

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Partial Transcript: Let me get your, um, history of where you've worked.

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes taking her first job as a babysitter at the age of 17. After she married and divorced, she worked as a waitress in a restaurant. She quit that job and went to stay with her brother and his wife in South Williamson, Kentucky. After spending a year there, she moved back home and worked at Faith's Dairy Bar and then the hospital. She and her sister also ran a coffee shop for about 2 years.

Keywords: Divorces; Faith's Dairy Bar; Marie Fields; Marriages; Mine workers; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Babysitting; Coffee shops; Pikeville (Ky.); Restaurants; South Williamson (Ky.); Waitresses

01:48:55 - Balancing the strike with housework

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back to the strike, w--during the strike for a few more minutes.

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes her mother being able to help take care of the housework and watching over Field's daughter Debbie. Fields describes how her family shared the responsibilities of cleaning, cooking, and paying the bills. Fields describes walking the picket line for fun as well as during holidays.

Keywords: Bills; Chores; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Financial records; Housework; Landlords; Marie Fields; Parents; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Plumbers; United Methodist Church

Subjects: Children; Communications Workers of America; Cooking; Families; Holidays; House cleaning; Labor unions--Organizing; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts

01:51:58 - Personal information

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Partial Transcript: Now I want to switch back to some more of this personal information I was asking you.

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes living in Pike County her whole life. She grew up in Pond Creek and went to school in a one-room schoolhouse. She describes moving around a lot as her father was sick. Fields describes her mother and oldest sister Marie working in the garden. She attended Pikeville High School until she was 17 and then began babysitting. She was married in 1948, and divorced in 1950. Her husband, Linton, drove a coal truck. She gave birth to her daughter Debbie, after they divorced when she was 28.

Keywords: Annie Fields; Divorces; Eunice Fields; Gardens; Marie Fields; Marriages; Pikeville High School; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Separations; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Babysitting; Childhood; Children; Coal Run (Ky.); Coal miners; Early childhood education; Families; Parents; Pike County (Ky.); Pikeville (Ky.)

02:05:03 - Expectations for after the strike

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you some of this other stuff now. When the strike was going on, what did you think the future was going to be like?

Segment Synopsis: Fields describes expecting the hospital to become unionized and provide more employee benefits after the strike. When she returned to the hospital after the strike, she was paid more. The strike resulted in a wage increase as well as retirement benefits. When the strike ended, Fields got a job at the Dairy Bar, but the Communications Workers of America continued to pay her bills until April.

Keywords: Benefits; Bills; Faith's Dairy Bar; Glen Damren; Hospitals; Labor union offices; Marie Fields; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Retirement; Retirement funds; Strikes; Unemployment; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; Wage increases

Subjects: Job security; Labor unions--Organizing; Labor unions--Strike benefits; Post employment benefits; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts; Work environment

02:08:15 - Lessons learned from the strike

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Partial Transcript: What do you think are the most important things you learned from that strike?

Segment Synopsis: Fields states that the strike changed her life, and she said if she could go back and change some things she would. Fields also describes the difficulty of finding a job in Pike County once people realized that they had gone on strike and tried to organize at the Pikeville Methodist Hospital. She recalls being denied a job at the First in Line and Landmark Motel because the employers had connections to the hospital board.

Keywords: Democratic Women's meetings; Elections; Employment; First in Line; Hospital boards; Juanita Phillips; Landmark Motel; Lee D. Keene; Picket duties; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Union organizing; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Local elections; Pike County (Ky.); Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Thoughts and feelings; Women political activists