Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mentie Meade, June 12, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Working at Pikeville Methodist Hospital before the strike

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Partial Transcript: Mentie, say your name in the microphone.

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes her job at the hospital before the strike. She worked at the cash register in the cafeteria during the first shift. Before working at the hospital in February of 1967, she had to complete a six week training in dietary work. She shares her training experience and how she had to learn certain things to accommodate for dietary restrictions. When she began working in the hospital, she worked alongside the cooks to fill trays with food and deliver them to patients. She worked this job for about 3 years before she switched to working in the cafeteria. Meade describes her cafeteria job as quite a bit easier, as she mainly worked as a cashier at the cash register.

Keywords: Cafeterias; Cash registers; Cooks; Dietary restrictions; Dietary work; Food trays; Hospitals; Job applications; Menus; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Trainings; United Methodist Hospital; Work programs

Subjects: Applications for positions; Cashiers; Dishwashing; Kitchens; Occupations; Salaries

00:05:53 - Grievances from the kitchen department

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Partial Transcript: What kinds of things were you all, from your department, naming in the strike as problems?

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes the issues that her department was naming as grievances in the strike; she highlights salary and seniority as the two things most important to her. Before combining workers from the other hospital, employees would get a raise every sixth months. Once they combined, they did not get raises and they were paid the same salary.

Keywords: Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH); District 50; Hospital food; Hospital kitchens; Hospital trays; Hospitals; Job experience; Job security; Methodist Hospital; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Raises; Seniority; United Methodist Hospital; Working conditions

Subjects: Dishwashing; Labor unions; Occupations; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women cooks; Women political activists

00:10:08 - Early unionizing efforts at Pikeville Methodist Hospital

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Partial Transcript: So, now you're over in this new combined hospital. When was it that people started talking union? When do you remember it?

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes the labor union organizing efforts beginning shortly after the two units were combined at the Pikeville Methodist Hospital. Meade recalls that she signed her own union card and then would get others to sign union cards as well. Meade didn't pressure other employees and mainly focused on people she knew well. Meade describes her unionizing efforts as more secretive, getting people to sign their cards on breaks.

Keywords: Cash registers; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Hospital administrators; Hospital boards; Hospital departments; Hospitals; Job trainings; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Social Security; Telephone offices; Union cards; Union memberships; Union offices; Union organizing

Subjects: Communications Workers of America; Elections; Labor unions; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Voting; Women political activists

00:17:03 - First day of the strike at Pikeville Methodist Hospital

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Partial Transcript: What happened when the strike started, to you? Where were you the day the strike started?

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes getting a telephone call at home when the strike started, and driving down to the picket lines from home. She recalls a meeting called by her supervisor before the strike took place, where her supervisor threatened to fire her if she were to go on strike. Meade remembers that almost everyone knew about the strike in advance; it did not shock her when it began. The first night on the picket line, Meade recalls a strikebreaker hitting Minnie Carol with their car. The picketers got on top of the cars to stop them from entering the hospital.

Keywords: Hazel Ratliff; Hospital administrators; Hospital shifts; Hospital supervisors; Lee D. Keene; Luther James; Minnie Carol; Ms. Vickers; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Union cards; Union membership; Union organizing

Subjects: Labor unions; Picketing; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:23:19 - Walking the picket line / Public support

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Partial Transcript: So what happens to you then, over the next few days? What starts happening?

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes her experiences walking the picket line. She would usually pull picket duty during the night shift. Meade recalls walking up and down the line, talking, eating, and cooking while on picket duty. Her most vivid memory was of how nice some of the public was to the picketers; many would bring food to support them.

Keywords: Hospital administrators; Labor unions; Night shifts; Picket line duty; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Public support; United Methodist Hospital

Subjects: Communities; Cooking; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:26:34 - Picketing Methodist churches in Jackson and Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: T, tell me about your trips, where you went.

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes going on trips to gather support for their strike on the Pikeville Methodist Hospital. She describes one trip to Jackson, Kentucky where they set up a picket line in front of a Methodist church. They stayed for several days in Jackson, where they picketed outside of meetings, and they were able to go inside to one meeting. They hoped to persuade the Methodists to take their side in the strike and convince the hospital to make a better deal with the workers.

Keywords: Lonnie Daniels; Minnie Carol; Nancy Lee Fields; Phyllis Cummins; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Posters; Preachers; Public support; United Methodist Church headquarters; United Methodist churches

Subjects: Jackson (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:34:04 - Gathering support from mine workers

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Partial Transcript: Did you go, um, to any of the mines around here?

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes travelling to different mines to convince miners to help the strikers at the Pikeville Methodist Hospital. Meade and several other strikers passed out flyers, asking the miners to boycott the hospital. While they did not boycott, many miners did not go into the hospital. Meade stated that the miners did all that they could to support the strikers.

Keywords: Coal mines; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Hospital departments; Job security; Mine workers; Strike tactics; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)

Subjects: Advertising fliers; Boycotts; Coal miners--Kentucky; Communications Workers of America; Picketing; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Miners; United Mine Workers of America

00:38:31 - Role in the strike

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Partial Transcript: I'm asking everybody to think about all the things they did during the strike, and list them out, as much as you can remember, about trying to win it.

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes her actions during the strike to help out. She describes getting to the picket lines at her assigned times and even spending extra time there when her shift had ended, as well as discouraging others from entering the hospital. Meade took several trips to other cities to gather support for their strike. She describes enjoying talking to other people and taking trips together.

Keywords: Labor unions; Lonnie Daniels; Mine workers; Picket lines; Protests; Public support; Union support

Subjects: Brothers and sisters; Coal miners--Kentucky; Families; Louisville (Ky.); Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:40:41 - Experience with unions / Union family

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Partial Transcript: Well, I might as well ask you about that now. Also I'm asking everybody what their history is with unions.

Segment Synopsis: Meade describes working in a plant in Michigan during the war, building bomber planes. She describes joining a union during her three years working at the plant. She recalls the strike she participated in after one girl was laid off for making a mistake on the job. Meade then describes her family's history of union involvement. Her father and her brothers were union members; Meade described hers as a union family. Meade's son was also a member of the auto workers' union in Michigan. Meade describes her family supporting her while she was on strike from the Pikeville Methodist Hospital.

Keywords: Family histories; Ford Plant Auto Workers Union; Hazel Ratliff; Labor unions; Mine workers; Teamsters unions; Union families; Union organizing; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)

Subjects: Brothers and sisters; Childhood; Families; Fathers; Pikeville (Ky.); Sons; Strikes and lockouts; United Mine Workers of America

00:48:18 - Actions during the strike

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Partial Transcript: Did you go on any of the other picket lines around town?

Segment Synopsis: Meade recalls actions that she took during the strike, including picketing, attending union meetings, and setting up roadblocks. She describes picketing at other companies around town. During the time of the Pikeville Methodist Hospital strike, Meade stood on a picket line outside of the Piggly Wiggly because they were sending food into the hospital. Meade also attended union meetings, both in Pikeville and Michigan. She also went on trips around Kentucky to spread awareness and gather support for their strike. Meade recalls standing in roadblocks to collect money for their union, and other people putting tacks and rocks into their collection buckets.

Keywords: Collections; Donations; Ford Motor Company; Grievances; Hospital boards; Lonnie Daniels; Opposition; Picket lines; Piggly Wiggly; Protests; Roadblocks; Strategies

Subjects: Picketing; Pikeville (Ky.); Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts; Women political activists

00:55:29 - News coverage of the strike / Strikebreakers

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Partial Transcript: What did you--did you all--did you do stuff just for general publicity around town to try to explain what the strike was about, or?

Segment Synopsis: Meade recounts that the strike gathered a lot of news coverage, but the local paper would not report about the strike. She did not talk to any reporters herself. At the beginning of the strike, Meade was unsure of whether people would try to cross their picket line, but she recalls their picket line as being fairly successful.

Keywords: Labor unions; Local papers; Mine workers; News coverage; Press; Publicity; Reporters

Subjects: Coal miner's--Kentucky; Newspapers; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts; Women political activists

00:57:03 - Being a woman on the picket line / Managing a household during a strike

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Partial Transcript: Did anybody ever tell you you had no business being out on the picket line because you were a woman?

Segment Synopsis: Meade shares encounters with other people claiming that she should not be on the picket line because she was a woman. When working with the union, she was involved with transporting other people and helped making plans. She enjoyed spending time at the union office and missed talking with everyone. Meade claims to have an active role in the strike and would have worked harder if she could do it again. During the strike, Meade did not endure significant financial hardship as she only had car payments, which were taken care of by the labor union. She lived by herself and did not have any major family issues during the strike. The strike did not cause issues with her family. Meade stated that she did not have any regrets and was proud that she was working for what she thought was right.

Keywords: Bills; Car payments; Debts; Labor unions; Union offices; Union organizing; VA check; Veterans Affairs check

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

01:04:20 - Background information / Life before the strike

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Partial Transcript: Let me get just some background information about you.

Segment Synopsis: Meade shares details of her early childhood and education. She finished high school and then left and went to Michigan where she worked in a factory during the war. She lived in an apartment with four or five other girls and they all worked in plants. Once the war ended, Meade worked at Watson's and Red Wings shoe store. Once she got married in 1948, Meade became pregnant and quit her job. Her husband passed away, leaving her to care for their baby.

Keywords: Early childhood; Education; Fathers; High schools; Husbands; Marriages; Murphy's; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Red Wing Shoes; Schools; Veteran's Affairs checks; Wartime; Watson's

Subjects: Childhood; Coal miners--Kentucky; Ecorse (Mich.); Education--Kentucky; Families; Occupations; Pikeville (Ky.); Richmond (Va.); River Rouge (Mich.); Social Security; World War, 1939-1945

01:12:37 - Returning to the hospital after the strike / Grandchildren

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Partial Transcript: You said you thought you were going back to the hospital? Tell me that story.

Segment Synopsis: Meade recalls receiving a call to return to the hospital. She had tests done and was told she could not return to work due to high blood pressure. Meade had suspicions that the hospital did not want workers over 60 to return to work. Meade shares that the workers that returned were worked pretty hard. If the hospital had allowed her to return, Meade expected it to be uncomfortable and that they would have worked them all very hard. Meade always believed that they would bring a union to the Pikeville Methodist Hospital; she remembers feeling disgusted when they shut the picket line down. Meade then shares a major lesson she learned during the strike. She then talks about her family, naming two of her grandchildren.

Keywords: Family vacations; Labor unions; Newspapers; Picket lines; Social Security; Union meetings

Subjects: Families; Granddaughters; Grandsons; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Law and legislation; Women political activists