Janie Campbell was born in Moffett near Edisto Island, South Carolina, and raised in New Jersey. There, she worked in a group home for youth with disabilities and served as Chief Shop Steward for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, (AFSCME). In 1991,she reluctantly left her job and returned to South Carolina for family reasons. After holding various jobs in the region, she began working as a sanitation worker with the City of Charleston in 1997. She was one of six women employed by the department at the time and recalls some initial embarrassment at riding on the back of a truck. With the encouragement of male coworkers, however, she became a driver. Campbell took part in two failed efforts to unionize the sanitation workers in order to bolster their pay and improve their working conditions. She discusses the poor working conditions in the department as well as the difficulties of sustaining a union in South Carolina.
This interview is a part of the COHP’s “Working Charleston” series. Working Charleston documents the on and off job experiences of the longshoremen and lawyers, the bartenders and carriage drivers, hospital aides and high tech workers who make Charleston among the nation’s prime tourist destinations and vital centers of global trade. The digital recordings and transcripts are part of The Citadel Oral History Program Collection at The Citadel Archives & Museum.