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"S" is for Stretch-Out

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"S" is for Stretch-out. In the aftermath of World War I, with pressure to maintain profit margins, textile mill owners began looking for ways to cut operating costs. The resulting strategies collectively were known as the “stretch-out.” Workdays were extended (without any additional pay), meal breaks were eliminated, workers were forced to tend a larger number of machines (sometimes as many as three times previous workloads), and they were fired if they could not keep up the pace. The result was bitter strikes culminating in the General Strike of 1934. In 1929 the General Assembly appointed a committee to investigate textile workers’ grievances. The committee concluded that the strikes were due to “deplorable living conditions in the villages” and “so-called efficiency measures” (especially the “stretch-out” that “put more work on the employees than they can do.”

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.