Jennings Norma Deindustrialization 1

Norma ‘Corky’ Jennings was born on December 3, 1939 and grew up in Maryville, Tennessee. In 1963 she began working at the Levi Strauss factory, where she soon joined the United Garment Workers of America, Local 402 and eventually became president of the local. In 1979 she led a wildcat strike (or non-sanctioned strike) of 800 workers that lasted for five weeks. The strike began over what workers perceived as abuse from a supervisor, and it continued after nine workers were dismissed by management. While the company eventually disciplined the supervisor and later reinstated five of the workers, four workers’including Jennings’were fired, a decision later upheld by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Jennings soon started work for the Tennessee Committee on Occupational Safety Health and successfully lobbied for a state ‘right-to-know’ law, which required that employers supply workers with information about hazardous and toxic materials in the workplace. Here she discusses how her life experiences shaped her understanding of the union movement and how Women’s networks and relationships were important components in the workplace and the strike.