Richard Polite was born in Charleston in 1951 and raised on Strawberry Lane before his family moved to Cannon St. near President St. After attending Burke High School, where he played football, Polite served in the U.S. Army and served one tour in Vietnam. In this interview, Polite recalls growing up in segregated Charleston and later working at the Naval Shipyard. He explains why he enjoys the job he has now held for 12 years driving a truck for the City of Charleston’s environmental services department. The job affords him the opportunity to serve and interact with the public. Hazardous working conditions and mismanagement have nevertheless led Polite and many of his coworkers to establish a union this past year. While there is no shortage of dissatisfaction among his coworkers, fear of losing their jobs in a poor economy has kept many of them on the sidelines.
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.