The General Textile Strike — the longest, largest, and most extensive “industrial action” in American history, extending from Maine to Alabama — came to Greenville on Sept. 5, 1934.
Since the late 1920s, mill owners had reduced dividends, cut wages and “stretched out” workloads. By 1932, the average South Carolina mill worker earned $9.70 a week. The New Deal didn’t improve conditions. So the United Textile Workers Union launched a strike with Greenville at their southern headquarters on Sept. 1, 1934.
Four days later, “flying squadrons” of strikers from Spartanburg arrived, determined to shut down Greenville mills, although most local workers were not in favor of the strike. The governor ordered National Guardsmen to set up machine gun emplacements at large mills, while soldiers with fixed bayonets guarded factory gates and roofs. Although all four Greer mills closed, operatives at Brandon, Woodside, Monaghan and others did not stop working. On the morning of the 6th, as organizers, deputies, and workers milled around Dunean’s gates, a deputy sheriff challenged a worker, who pulled a knife. The deputy fired, the worker ran, and the deputy shot him in the back.
The strike collapsed here, and after workers were killed in Honea Path, failed across the nation.
Editor’s note: For more than 140 years, The Greenville News has told the story of our community and the people who live here. Each day this year we are publishing a brief piece of our history – Greenville’s story.