Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Alpha Ratliff, Anna Mae Fields, May 31, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Dietary work at Pikeville Methodist Hospital

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Partial Transcript: Mae, say your name.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about the working conditions and duties of dietary workers in the hospital. She also talks about an interaction with a customer who was appalled at her working conditions.

Keywords: Customers; Dietary; Duties; Jobs; Pay; Picket lines; Pickets; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Staffing; Supervisors; Terminations; Union cards; Unionization; Ventilation; Wages; Working conditions

Subjects: Cafeterias; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Occupations.; Picketing.; Salaries

00:05:29 - Initial unionization efforts

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Partial Transcript: And, I remember one morning I had to be on the job at 5 o'clock in the morning.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff and Fields discuss the lead up to the strike, including the hospital's attempt to repress organizing.

Keywords: Communications Workers of America (CWA); Dietary; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Ms. Vickers; Organizing; Patients; Pay; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Terminations; Understaffed; Union activities; Union cards; Union organizing; Unionization; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; Wages; Working conditions

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Picketing; Picketing.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries; Women political activists

00:10:11 - Picketing--Part I

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Partial Transcript: And old, uh, Mr. Elliott, he was one of the board members. I'll never forget him as long as I live.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about the picket line, including interacting with a hostile board member.

Keywords: Communications Workers of America (CWA); Dietary; Duties; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Mr. Elliott; Organizing; Pay; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Terminations; Understaffed; Union activities; Union cards; Union halls; Union organizing; Unionization; Unions; Wages

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Picketing; Picketing.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries; Women political activists

00:11:04 - Hospital's working conditions--Part I / Complaint process

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Partial Transcript: Did you say you worked the night shift?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff discusses how working conditions worsened after transitioning to the Pikeville Methodist Hospital because of a lack of organization. She also talks about injuries incurred while working. Ratliff and Fields discuss how the complaint process with the hospital's board was ineffective and only took place after unionization started.

Keywords: Communications Workers of America (CWA); Complaints; Dietary; Duties; Food carts; Grievances; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Injuries; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Organizing; Pay; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Shifts; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Terminations; Understaffed; United Methodist Hospital; Wages

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries

00:19:18 - Becoming a full-time employee at the hospital

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Partial Transcript: And I--look I'm gonna tell you how long I worked part-time.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff and Fields talk about the poor working conditions for part-time workers.

Keywords: Benefits; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Dietary; Full time workers; Full-time; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Marie Baker; Ms. Vickers; Nancy Taylor; Organizing; Part time workers; Part-time; Patients; Pay; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Resignation; Sick days; Staffing; Supervisors; Terminations; Understaffed; Union activities; Union cards; Union organizing; Unionization; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Vacations; Wages; Working conditions

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries; Women political activists

00:21:52 - Ms. Vickers / Job at the nursing home

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Partial Transcript: Did she and Ms. Vickers have the same job?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about how she and Ms. Vickers maintained their relationship after leaving the hospital, including Ms. Vickers' recommendation of Ratliff to the nursing home. She also talks about working at the nursing home once the strike started.

Keywords: Dietary; Friendships; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Ms. Vickers; Nursing homes; Pay; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Relationships; Staffing; Supervisors; Terminations; Unionization; Unions; Wages; Widows; Working conditions

Subjects: Cafeterias; Coal miners' spouses; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.)

00:24:46 - Death of her husband

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Partial Transcript: You said that Bill had died.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about her husband's illnesses and his treatment at Pikeville Methodist Hospital by strikebreaking nurses. She also talks about his death.

Keywords: Bill Fields; Black lung; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Deaths; Diabetes; Diabetics; Dietary; Filipinas; Filipinos; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Husbands; Illness; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Massive heart attacks; Ms. Vickers; Nieces; Nurses; Organizing; Patients; Pay; Philippines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Sickness; Spouses; Staffing; Supervisors; Terminations; Understaffed; Union activities; Union cards; Union organizing; Unionization; Unions; United Methodist Hospital; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wages; Widows; Working conditions

Subjects: Coal miners' spouses; Families.; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Lungs--Dust diseases; Medical care--Kentucky; Pikeville (Ky.); Strikebreakers

00:29:08 - Hospital's working conditions--Part II

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Partial Transcript: Have you ever wanted to go back to the hospital to work?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff and Fields discuss the poor working conditions at the hospital, including waste management, cost-cutting measures, and the threats of termination. Ratliff also talks about choosing not to return to the hospital. She also talks about the organizing efforts at the nursing home.

Keywords: Careers; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Complaints; Condiments; Cost-cutting measures; Costs; Dietary; Duties; Finances; Grievances; Health issues; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Nursing homes; Organizing; Pay; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Shifts; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Terminations; Trash; Understaffed; United Methodist Hospital; Wages

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries

00:36:01 - Relationships at the hospital / Responses to organizing

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Partial Transcript: Why did you first apply for a job at the hospital?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff discusses how she started working for the hospital and her relationships with coworkers. She talks about the hospital's efforts to repress unionization.

Keywords: Colleagues; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Dietary; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Ms. Vickers; Organizing; Patients; Pay; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Relationships; Secrets; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Terminations; Union activities; Union organizing; Unionization; Unions; Wages; Working conditions

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries; Women political activists

00:42:16 - Picketing--Part II

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Partial Transcript: And the next thing Ms. Vickers knows is her whole department's out there on the picket line.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about the start of, and entertainment on, the picket line. Ratliff and Fields talk about interactions with opponents of the strike and safety concerns.

Keywords: Cars; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Dietary; Duties; Fear; Foods; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Mr. Thomas; Organizing; Pay; Picket lines; Picketing; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Safety; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Terminations; Understaffed; Union activities; Union cards; Union halls; Union organizing; Unionization; Unions; Violence; Wages

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Picketing.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries; Women political activists

00:46:50 - Treatment of staff / Responses to strike

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Partial Transcript: And, and that, that doctor that got killed on the airplane. What was his name?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about negative interactions with doctors and other staff at the hospital. She also talks about her family's feeling about her picketing. Ratliff and Fields talk about the community responses to the picket line.

Keywords: Bosses; Children; Coffees; Dangerous; Dangers; Deaths; Dietary; Doctors; Friendships; Grudges; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Husbands; Idiocy; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Neighbors; Nursing homes; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Radio programs; Relationships; Responses; Salaries; Spouses; Staffing; Supervisors; Supports; Unionization; Unions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wages; Widows; Working conditions

Subjects: Cafeterias; Coal miners' spouses; Communications Workers of America; Families; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Hospitals--Employees--Salaries, etc.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.); Strikebreakers; United Mine Workers of America

00:56:55 - Strikebreakers and supporters

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Partial Transcript: Well you said, you--nobody called you to tell you there was a strike. You showed up and there it was.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff and Fields discuss who did and did not cross their picket line. They talk about the support of the milk men and maintenance department.

Keywords: Colleagues; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Coworkers; Dietary; Frankie Blair; Hospital boards; Hospital staff; Hospitals; Jobs; Kitchen staff; Kurt Wallis; Maintenance departments; Maintenance men; Maintenance workers; Milk delivery persons; Milk men; Organizing; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Relationships; Staffing; Strikes; Supervisors; Supports; Union activities; Unionization; Unions; Wages

Subjects: Cafeterias; Communications Workers of America; Food service employees; Hospital and community.; Hospital care--United States.; Labor unions; Labor unions--Organizing; Occupations.; Pikeville (Ky.); Salaries; Women political activists

01:00:25 - Types of involvement in strike

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Partial Transcript: So, the first thing you did then was show up and find the picket line, go home and get your clothes, and come back and stay on the picket line, right?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff talks about the various ways she furthered the strikers' cause, including attending strike meetings and boycotting businesses. She talks about the hospital's board members and representative at union meetings. She talks about strikebreakers, including those who helped take care of her husband.

Keywords: Anger; Back pay; Benefits; Bill Ratliff; Board members; Boycotts; Bruce Walters; Careers; Communications; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Ernest Elliott; Filipinos; Hospitals; Interactions; Jobs; Leaders; Leadership; Lonnie Daniels; Opponents; Organizing; Persuasion; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Relationships; Representation; Schedules; Scheduling; Staff; Strikes; Terminations; Union meetings; Unions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence; Wages; Workplaces

Subjects: Children; Communications Workers of America.; Hospitals--Employees--Salaries, etc.; Medical care-- Kentucky; Occupations.; Picketing.; Protest and social movements; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; United Mine Workers of America; Women political activists

01:22:43 - Reflections about strike--Part I

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Partial Transcript: Well, would you consider yourself then to be real active in the strike?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff and Fields discuss the strike, including their thoughts about strikebreakers and whether they would do anything differently. They also talk about how the hospital's board members could not be persuaded.

Keywords: Advice; Benefits; Board members; Changes; Communications; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Concerns; Conclusions; Duties; Explanations; Households; Learning; Lessons; Persuasion; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Reflections; Regrets; Relationships; Rights; Safety; Signs; Strikes; Terminations; Unionization; Unions; Wages; Workplaces; Worries

Subjects: Collective labor agreements; Communications Workers of America.; Communities; Hospital and community.; Hospitals--Employees--Salaries, etc.; Labor unions--Strike benefits; Occupations.; Picketing.; Protest and social movements; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Women political activists

01:30:11 - Managing her household

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Partial Transcript: And they knew, they knew that people had to work for a living.

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff discusses the maintenance of her immediate household and other family members before and after the strike. She talks about taking care of various sick family members, and her husband's responsibility for many household chores. She also talks about her relationships with fellow strikers.

Keywords: Alpha Thompson; Black lung disease; Chores; Colleagues; College students; Coworkers; Deaths; Fathers; Friendships; Gardens; Households; Huntington's Disease; Illnesses; Kids; Leaves of absence; Maiden names; Marriages; Pensions; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Relationships; Siblings; Sickness; Sisters; Social Security; Spouses; Strike benefits; Unionization; Unions; Welfare; Widows

Subjects: Children; Coal miners' spouses; Communications Workers of America.; Families.; Hospital and community.; Labor unions--Strike benefits; Lungs--Dust diseases; Occupations.; Picketing.; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; Work life

01:42:23 - Reflections about strike--Part II / Receiving back pay

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Partial Transcript: Are there things that you did during the strike that was hard for you to decide to do?

Segment Synopsis: Ratliff and Fields discuss striking and their willingness to return to a picket line. They also discuss receiving their back pay from the hospital. Ratliff talks about her family's concerns about her picketing as well as advice for future strikers.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Advice; Back pay; Benefits; Betterment; Changes; Checks; Communications; Concerns; Conclusions; Deaths; Explanations; Households; Husbands; Kids; Love; Pacifism; Picket lines; Pikeville Methodist Hospital; Reflections; Regrets; Relationships; Safety; Signs; Spouses; Strikes; Supreme Court; Terminations; Unionization; Unions; Violence; Wages; Widows; Workplaces; Worries

Subjects: Children; Collective labor agreements; Communications Workers of America.; Communities; Ethics.; Families.; Hospital and community.; Hospitals--Employees--Salaries, etc.; Labor unions--Strike benefits; Occupations.; Picketing.; Protest and social movements; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Women political activists