Jim Swindle grew up in a family of coal miners during a time when wages were one dollar a day. He witnessed the struggle of miners in their efforts to organize and gain respect in their workplace. By the time of his high school graduation, Jim knew that he would spend his life helping workers get fair pay for a fair day’s labor.
On his first day of employment in 1941 at Tennessee Coal and Iron Company in Fairfield, Alabama, Jim joined the Steel Workers Organizing Committee which officially became the United Steelworkers of America in 1942.
Jim participated in the first wildcat strike at the tin mill and when this profile was written, was one of the few still living to have stood at the pay line to collect dues. After the union was voted in, Jim served as Assistant Grievance Committeeman for four years and was elected as Grievance Committeeman and Chairman for the next sixteen years. A highlight of his career was serving as Chairman of the Inequities Program, where he worked to raise pay rates in the South to the level paid for the same jobs in the North.
After forty-one years of service, Jim retired in 1982 and immediately became a driving force in SOAR. He was the President of his SOAR Chapter and the SOAR Executive Board Member in USW District 9 for 25 years (1985-2010).
Jim’s other accomplishments include past president of the Alabama AFL-CIO Retiree Group, Jefferson County Labor Council Board member, President of the Jefferson County Retirees Organization and Board member of the Alabama Organized Labor Awards Foundation. In 2000, he was placed into the Alabama Organized Labor Awards Foundation Hall of Fame.
Jim’s and his wife, Clara, were married about 70 years.
On a personal note, I remember that Jim, before giving his District 9 report at the SOAR board meetings would, while removing both of his hearing aids say, “I’m taking these things out because I can’t stand to hear myself talk.”