Franco-American Collection

Antonio Pomerleau

"The weaving department—awful noisy. Some, it would never bother their ears, but some it does. The late years, they discover a plug to put in the people’s ear. But some couldn’t work with it, and I couldn’t work with it. So I went down to the belt shop. They had tools to push little holes in anything, so I went down and I punch mine and I put it in my ears, so they never knew if I work with it. Otherwise, I couldn’t be able to work, probably ‘til go home. In my department, we didn’t have that noise, but they forced us to do it just the same. But at the end of it, nobody was wearing them."

Antonio Pomerleau (b. 1907, Saint-Méthode, QC) left Canada when he was three years old and travelled with his family to Lewiston, Maine. Although his father had been recruited to work in the Bates textile mill, he didn't like the work, and became a woodsman instead.  After the fourth grade, Antonio followed his father into the logging trade, but took a job at the Bates mill himself at age 16. He would continue to work in the industry at different Maine textile mills until his retirement.

Antonio began work as a sweeper, earning $13.82 for a fifty-four hour work week.  With the advent of the Great Depression, however, wages had plummeted to $7.00 for the legally-mandated forty-hour work week.  In 1936, Antonio helped organize the union at the Bates Mill.

In this interview with Ralph Roy, conducted April 22, 1994, Antonio talks about his working conditions, relationship with the union and his attitude to work.

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